5.11.2010

Truancy Calls

I've gotten two calls now from the Philadelphia School District's Office of Attendance and Truancy regarding the new crackdown on truants. You'd think that, along with the calls, it would have gotten some press. However, I haven't seen a thing in the papers about it. No emails. No mention in the weekly parent newsletter.

Hmm.

At any rate, as I understand it, the party line is that they're cracking down on truancy as part of a continued effort to keep kids in school. Apparently, every day, 12,000 Philadelphia students skip school. Yowza.

But I don't think it's really about a continued effort to curb truancy. I think it's about stopping flash mobs. It's difficult to justify stopping a group of kids who may (or may not) be up to no good - unless they're clearly truant. Problem solved.

So here's the plan: kids who are out on the streets between certain hours (I believe the hours are 9am to noon, but I could be mistaken since there was so much information in the call) must have an immediately verifiable reason in writing (like a doctor's appointment card or - and I love this example that they gave - a court summons) and photo ID. If the child can't provide an immediately verifiable reason, then the police can issue a $25 ticket which will be mailed to the home.

I love this idea. But I am not convinced that it will work the way that the District hopes that it does. Sadly, it will only really affect kids who are already worried about what their parents think and I'm not sure those are your truants to begin with. I think the kids who are out and about during school hours probably don't care about a ticket, or what their parents think. And I'm not sure that the parents care about the ticket either.

Yes, I sound a little bit jaded. The irony of that is that I'm generally pretty optimistic - annoyingly so. But back in my retail days, I called enough parents about shoplifting teens to know that all too often, bad behavior is learned or at the very least, tolerated.

To be clear, there already is a "do not skip school" rule on the books. It's just not being enforced the way that it should. I don't know that a ticket or two is going to solve that problem. And assuming that it would, perhaps a little more publicity would be in order?


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