In the weekly feature called "e-views," we invite readers to answer a question via email.
Last week's question:
What can be done about truant youths hanging out on city streets, sometimes causing trouble, during the daytime hours? Do you think truancy officers or curfews are helpful, or are there other ways to curb trouble?
TRUANCY IS A hazard sign of upcoming rock slide as dropouts are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare. Also, bet you you'll never find a gang member who didn't first earn his stripes as a truant.
Punishment alone is half-baked potatoes. We need positive, holistic interventions, with emphasis on parental involvement through consequences and rewards. Successful multiagency models exist, including our very own Antioch-based Youth Intervention Network, recently honored by the United Nations at The Hague.
Regrettably, not much spare cash for truant officers but an enforced daytime curfew could do wonders. In Rohnert Park, the Stop, Cite and Return Project gives two warning tickets, bringing kids to school, before a third one with mandated consequences and support. Daytime burglary there dropped an astounding 75 percent. Remember, at 38 percent Antioch has the highest percentage of population under 18 in the county. A curfew could keep kids on track and help reduce our through-the-roof burglaries.
DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS, a curfew might be difficult to implement, compared with a curfew at night, which is already in effect. Since the issue of truancy would be an added problem for an already busy police department, an occasional sweep in conjunction with juvenile probation officers and school officials might prove to be somewhat effective. Truant kids do become a police problem when they commit crimes, which they occasionally do. Last, but not least, holding parents responsible with citations and fines might eliminate the issue of truancy.
IDENTIFY THE YOUTH then contact the parents (if any). Work out a solution. No solution? Perhaps foster care? Someone has got to care enough to make a difference. If not the parents, then society must -- else wise our future is doomed as these youths are our future.
ADULTS ARE LEGALLY responsible for their children until they are 18 (every parent waits for that magic number). Fine the parents community service at the school for the amount of time student not in class. Parents cannot really spank their children anymore, but you can take all but human necessities away! Start with the cell phone.
TRUANT YOUTHS DURING daytime school hours create a rise in crime, loss of revenue to schools and harassment for merchants.
When I was a school administrator in Fresno, we had a link with the police department in a program called "Operation Stay In School." The way it worked, and indeed it did work, police would detain any youth loitering between the school day hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and transport them to a central school-run location staffed by school services personnel. Parents would be contacted and made to come there to retrieve their child. If parents couldn't be located, then the youth would remain until the school day ended.
Habitually truant youngsters were brought before a student attendance review board along with their parents, and a strategy was put into place. Some parents were levied fines and some actually spent a night in jail or were court-ordered to spend a full day shadowing their children from class to class. Some forget that school attendance is a compulsory by law.
TRUANCY AT ITS simplest has to be dealt with by school personnel. If any truant is found just hanging out on the streets, he/she should be rounded up, taken back to school, and that day placed in some classroom for truants (made to listen to Bach to calm him/her down, and teach them a lesson of what they'll have to hear if done again). If the truant is causing trouble, then they should be dealt with according to the law. Truancy officers and curfews are helpful to a point, but each case must not be stereotyped along with the others. In my day, one would get the paddle (with holes in it for better and speedier application to a truant's rear) to impress upon the truant the poor decision making they made. Curbing truancy is a very deep and involved process. It requires reaching the truant and bringing out their reasons for it, then dealing with it. I skipped some classes in my high school days in order to just be with my friends, go look for girls, to cruise just for the pleasure, and just avoid some boring classes. Truants overall are not criminals, although some become such, just incorrigibles not realizing the benefits of school. Schools must deal with truancy delicately, but with the authority and understanding required. It isn't a one answer for all matter.
Ralph A. Hernandez
This week's question:
How concerned are you about the recent spike in gas prices to nearly $5 a gallon? What can be done to bring down prices both in the short and long term?
Email your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please limit responses to a few sentences, and be sure to include your full name and city of residence. Not all responses will be published. Note: Please respond before Monday.