All Articles Tagged "truancy"

How Poor Parents Are Being Criminalized For Being Poor Parents

March 12th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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"charing ball"It seems like parenting is getting a whole lot tougher these days. Not only do you have to make sure the youngins’ are fed, clean and clothed properly but you also have to worry about going to jail over getting your child an education.  Glad I have pets.

First is the story of a homeless Black mother in Connecticut, who was found guilty of stealing $15,000 in educational services. Tanya McDowell, who was living between her van and homeless shelters, was charged with felony larceny last year after she lied about her address to make her six-year-old son eligible to attend kindergarten in a better district. McDowell pled guilty to the accusation and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. While the sentence also includes a seven year bid for four charges of drug possession McDowell is also required to pay a $6,200 fine in restitution.

McDowell’s case has attracted lots of support from education and civil rights advocates who argued for compassion for a homeless mother. However the school district, the prosecutor of the case and finally the juror believe that she should have been required to send him to school in the city of her last permanent address.  The case is also reminiscent of Kelley Williams-Bolar, who too was convicted last year of lying about her residency to get her daughters into a better school district in Ohio. Williams-Bolar was sentenced to two consecutive five-year prison bids. However after public pressure, that sentence was reduced and William-Bolar only spent 10 days in jail, five years of probation and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

Both cases involved the so-called illegal falsification of residence in order to obtain thousands of dollars in educational benefits. However both stories also illustrate how increasingly hostile our public school system is, which presumably is supposed to be free for all American children (paid for by federal funds through our taxes dollars).

More and more, we are seeing stories about how Black and low income parents have been criminalized. Like how last year, more than 400 Baltimore parents had received notification that they would face a District Court judge as a result of charges filed by the school system’s Office of Attendance and Truancy.  And in my home state of Pennsylvania, where the NAACP and the Public Inter Law Center of Philadelphia filed a federal lawsuit against the Lebanon School District for imposing excessive and illegal fines of up to $300 per incident on truant children or their families. One parent in particular was ordered to pay $27,000 and a 17-year-old student was fined more than $12,000.

Mother Faces Jail Time for Autistic Son’s Truancy

January 6th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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This school year, Andria Black’s autistic son has racked up 16 days worth of absences, made up of 10-minute tardy’s and sick days. Now those absences may also add up to jail time for the 9-year-old’s mother.

Andria claims her son’s special needs affect the time she is able to get him to school in the morning but after three  years of trying to work something out, the Fitzgerald school district in Macomb County, MI, has turned Andria’s case over to the Macomb Country Intermediate School District, where the truancy officer is prosecuting her on charges that could lead to 90 days in jail and place her son in foster care.

“There has been an ongoing situation with this mother and at some point when things don’t change it has to go to court, our number one priority is educating kids,” M.I.S.D Deputy Superintendent Don Bollinger, says.

But is jail the way to get that message across? Andria obiously doesnt think so, saying some mornings her son will just shut down and not want to go to school. “If they need to reprimand me or he needs to make it up in summer school or something that’s fine, but jail time is not the answer.”

Instead of jail time, what this 27-year-old mother needs is parenting classes or a support group to help her figure out how to deal with her son’s special needs. Punishing her with jail time can’t do that.

Yesterday, Andria and her attorney requested a jury trial and they’re also hoping to focus the case on the number of absences her son has had this school year and not from the past three years. Her lawyer says it’s too difficult for Andria to recall why her son was absent or late on a particular day a few years ago.

Do you think this mother should serve jail time for her son’s truancy?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

Truancy in District Poses Uphill Battle

May 5th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Informer ) — Truancy among students in the District is a serious issue, and with about one in seven high school students attending classes only about three times a week, the problem isn’t getting any better.  School attendance in D.C. is required for any child who reaches age five on or before December 31 and they must attend classes until their 18th birthday.  However, students under 18 are listed as truant after several incidences of unexcused absences.  Recent reports have stated that as many as 2,000 students a day are reported truant in the District. Some of the reasons include domestic issues, bullying and lack of transportation.  “But, I think that most of the kids who are not attending simply don’t like school or they just aren’t doing well in their classes,” said D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large).  “Instead of bringing them back to school or processing them at a police station, I suggest sending them to a job training program.”

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Baltimore Hands Out Jail Time for Parents of Truants

April 26th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Baltimore Sun) — 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.

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School Admissions Director Fights Truancy at Students’ Front Doors

March 16th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Afro) — David Clarke isn’t a cop or a truant officer, but for a few years now he has taken his fight against truancy directly to students’ front doors. Behind those doors, Clarke often finds students and their families in crisis causing unexcused absences.  Clarke, the admissions director for the six D.C. schools operated by Specialized Education Services, Inc. (SESI), said student truancy often has complicated underlying causes.  “Most of our students are not skipping school just for the heck of it,” Clarke said.  “I have found some of our kids with no food, no electricity, no heat or hot water. Some were left to babysit younger siblings. Others were afraid to leave home because of neighborhood beefs,” said Clarke. “Some had no clean clothes, no money to do laundry and were embarrassed to come to school because they didn’t feel presentable.”  Mary Rinder, co-director of SESI’s High Road Academy for high school students with learning disabilities, said getting these students back into the classroom is the first step.

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Nearly 4,000 Truant from District Schools Last Semester

February 4th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Examiner) — D.C. police picked up more than 3,700 students for truancy in the first semester of a school year marked by new reforms. “The challenge is, how much does a student learn when he’s not in school?” D.C. Councilman Sekou Biddle, chairman of the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy, told The Washington Examiner. “For us to have long-lasting, sustainable education reform, we’ve got to improve what’s going on inside classrooms, but also the number of students there to benefit from it.” Biddle said D.C. Public Schools reported that 13 percent of secondary school students had racked up 15 or more unexcused absences, earning them the school system’s “chronically truant” label.

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Ticketing for Truancy: Improvement or Imprisonment?

December 8th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(New American Media) — He was on his way to class. He really was. He wasn’t “ditching” and he had no intentions of leaving campus to engage in illicit or illegal behavior.  Rodney Smith said he forgot his backpack in the school cafeteria and went to retrieve it; that’s the reason he was late to class after lunch, and being late is the reason he was given a truancy ticket.  “…I was just a couple of minutes late … the officers took me to their office to give me the ticket which made me even later for class than I had been for just going to get my backpack,” he said.  “Truancy” tickets are issued to students throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) under Los Angeles Municipal Code 45.04, which prohibits juveniles from loitering during normal school hours. Students who are not in school during those hours and who appear to be without parental/adult supervision are given citations that come with a minimum fine of $50 dollars.

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Locking Up Parents Is Not The Answer For Juvenile Crime

October 27th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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"Charing Ball"A Detroit prosecutor presented a proposal to the City Council last week that would require parents to spend three days in jail if they failed to attend at least one parent-teacher meeting per school year.

Yeah I’m sure that is going to go over well.

District Attorney Kym Worthy has a belief that the majority of crime, which is committed by juveniles, generally has two things in common: The child has a history of truancy and the parents or parent is not involved in the child’s education.  Can’t argue with the D.A. on either of those points.  Worthy’s response to the epidemic is requiring a parent to attend at least one parent-teacher conference a year or risk facing up to three days in jail.

Clearly, the proposal was drafted out of pure distress. Detroit has been, for a very long time, suffering from a host of social issues. One in every third person in Detroit lives below the federal poverty line – of that, almost half are children.  The unemployment rate hovers somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. As it stands now, Detroit has a drop out rate of almost 70 percent and an illiteracy rate nearing 50 percent.

So in some respects you do have to admire Worthy as her goal is to get families to realize that education is probably the only way to improve their situation in life – if not, than these kids will end up paying the cost in the future.

Other places across the country, such as San Francisco and Orange County, Florida, have similar programs to deal with truancy. In one of the most extreme cases, a single mother served 108 days in jail, one day for every day of school her two sons missed, one of them is a fifth grader at Pinar Elementary School in East Orange County.

Yet as noble as an effort Worthy is putting forth, at some point, we have to realize that we can’t legislate parental interest in children’s education. Moreover, the solution to every single social problem can’t be to “lock them all up.”

It’s hard to advocate for mandatory prison time for parents in a state, which is already ranked 9th in the country for incarceration rates, locking up over 500 per 100,000 people.  And as the population of that the city had decreased, so has the tax revenue, which has usually supported schools and other services. Just last year, the city had to close 29 schools and an additional 32 schools were closed this summer.

It would appear that at least part of the problem is the Detroit Public School System itself, which seems to be very troubled and has a problem justifying its own value. Moreover, turning teachers into police officers only helps to create an even more adversarial relationship between parents and schools – not to mention puts the safety of already overextended teachers and staff at risk.

The reasons parents are not showing up needs to be addressed. Indifference towards the importance of education is, of course, apparent but there are other root causes, which also need to be addressed.  And while invention is necessary, mandatory incarceration can only prove to be a slippery slope.  What’s next: locking parents up if their kids fail a class, wears the wrong clothing to school or receives poor scores on their standardize test?

Perhaps the solution centers on required or mandatory parenting classes, phone calls and home visits by school staff (remember when schools used to do those?), followed by incentives, which wouldn’t be hard to do in a place like Detroit, where so many people go without.

Using the threats of incarceration to solve all our problems has never been proven to be successful, just look how it has worked with the war on drugs. Even Worthy admits that this controversial proposal should be used to get the conversation started about the poor state of affairs around education in the city.

If the proposal is passed, Worthy said that her office would work with service groups to ensure prosecuted parents have resources to get more involved. Teachers would work to accommodate parents’ schedules and the school would send reminders. Well, why aren’t they doing that to begin with?