truancy in the news

Truancy Bill Would Revoke Parents License For Too Many Absences:
"Lawmakers are saying truancy, or unexcused absences, is getting out of hand all across the state. Senator Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said parents need to be more responsible with their child's education, and he's planning to introduce a bill that will put the pressure on parents to do just that. 
In this bill, some parents could lose their drivers license if they knowingly let their child unlawfully miss ten or more days of school. 'We need to be sending the message to parents who have the ability to get their children to school and are not doing it, and let them know that if you're going to do that, you're sentencing your child to a life of less opportunity,' he said."
The agency charged with providing homes and support for Sarasota's poorest families has drafted an unusual plan to add some local bite to state compulsory attendance laws. 
Before the next school year, the Sarasota Housing Authority hopes to add a new rule in tenants' lease agreements: If your students do not go to class, prepare to be evicted.
More than 200 children between age 6 and 16, and their families, would be affected. As a condition of their housing, parents would be required to sign a waiver granting permission for the school to release student records.The new policy could also help lower daytime crimes around housing projects, said Sarasota Police Department Capt. Paul Sutton.
School's Cool: Tough Love Truancy Ticketing No More! (laist.com)
Those opposed to the practice of ticket writing say that method of punishment, along with the heavy fines, "are exactly the wrong method for achieving better attendance."
Said one student who had been ticketed in the past: "It's more of a waste of time than helping us out. It's just a bad experience for anyone. It's scary too," reports ABC7. 
Truancy ticketing data published by the Times shows that during 2004-2009, of the over 47,000 tickets issued in the Los Angeles Unified School District, 88% of them went to African American and Latino students. "And not one of the more than 13,118 curfew tickets issued by the school police went to a white student," note reform advocates.
Barbara Gaskins says she took her 15-year-old son to his bus stop every morning at 7:30, well in time for his 9 a.m. homeroom bell at Patterson High School. She obtained as many medical excuses as the doctor would allow when her son suffered from a series of stomach viruses. And she has taught her children that they have to "get an education to get somewhere in life."

But Gaskins was recently jailed for 10 days — one of the dozen parents of Baltimore City students to receive a sentence this year — after failing to send her child to school 103 of 130 days.

More than 400 parents have received notification this school year that they would face a District Court judge as a result of charges filed by the school system's Office of Attendance and Truancy.

Even more than a letter home from their students' teachers or principals, parents dread a letter from Alfred Barbour, the court liaison for the school system. He enforces the school system's philosophy that children younger than 16 — the state's compulsory age of attendance — missing exorbitant amounts of school is not only unacceptable but criminal.

When she was sentenced to 10 days in jail, to be served five consecutive weekends, Gaskins said she was most concerned about who would care for her four children, all school-age.

"Of course, I'm scared: I've never been in trouble with the law — period," a teary-eyed Gaskins said in an interview after she received her sentence, which began that Friday. "We're a Christian family."

But it was the third time Gaskins had gone before District Judge Barbara B. Waxman since she was first cited in April last year.

Barbour said cases like Gaskins' are rare. No parents were sentenced to jail last year, and about three were the year before that.

About 402 parents have been cited this school year, 407 in the 2010 school year, and 375 in 2009. 
....
"I think the school system kind of abuses its power, where they come in and muscle people into pleading guilty," he [defense atty Hayat] said. "I have a moral issue with how they're criminalizing parents who aren't really criminals at all — and it doesn't even fix the problem."
Some students at Roosevelt High School told teacher Jorge Lopez they were being harassed by police. 
"We want to create a culture where students feel nurtured on campus, not feel afraid to come to campus," said Lopez. 
The LAPD began working with community groups to address their concerns to revise how the police enforce the daytime curfew policy. Officers will now not ticket students in the first hour of classes and police are encouraged not to ticket those who are clearly on their way to school.  
.... 
Matthew Lopez says he was ticketed last year but the ticket was dismissed because he was not in violation of daytime curfew.
"It's more of a waste of time than helping us out. It's just a bad experience for anyone. It's scary too," said Lopez. 
Lopez's mother says she realizes police are trying to crack down on kids committing crimes, but she says officers need to encourage students to go to class rather than write tickets many families can't afford.

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