Let’s Choose tackles school truancy this week

DC might criminally charge parents whose kids miss school. Is that the right approach? What else should DC do about truancy? This week, Let’s Choose DC asked the at-large candidates this question:

Last year DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said that DC schools are suffering from a “truancy crisis.” The DC Council is now debating a bill that would increase penalties on parents for kids who chronically miss school. Should parents be held to account for when their kids miss school? How can DC ensure that students attend school consistently?

View responses and vote here.

Continues after the jump.

Let’s Choose DC is a partnership between PoPville, Greater Greater Washington and DCist which aims to educate voters about candidates’ positions for the April 23 race for DC Council at-large. This week, we got responses from Matthew Frumin, Perry Redd, John Settles, Elissa Silverman, and Paul Zukerberg.

John Settles has been removed from the ballot after a successful challenge to his nominating petition signatures left him short of the required number. Paul Zukerberg also faced a challenge, but survived; he denounced the process and competitor Elissa Silverman, whose supporter filed both challenges.

Sadly, Patrick Mara (who serves on the State Board of Education and has made education a significant part of his platform), Anita Bonds, and Michael Brown did not respond to the question this week.

14 Comment

  • Amen to putting deadbeat parents in jail! Ultimately, it’s the parent responsibility to know (AND CARE) where their children are at all times. There has to be some sort of consequence or else the problem will only get worse.

  • Once the mama or grandmama is in jail (since the daddy is already likely absent and/or in jail) who’s going to feed and clothe the student — much less get her/him to school and help with homework? Once you go to jail, if you have a job, you might be fired. Hard to be hired for a new job with a criminal record; no job, no car, no apt, … makes it difficult for kids to get to school. Brilliant solution.

    • But lets say after the 4th truancy Principal calls mom/dad/guardian in and says “Well junior has been truant 4 times this semester, after the tenth you are criminally liable and could face fines and/or jail time of up to 28 days”

      I’m guessing that might wake up parent. You can’t just use sticks though – you need a comprehensive intervention system (with all social services and charities).

      My mom used to make house calls on the kids that didn’t show up to her class or had other chronic issues. She’d lay it on the line for the parents (old school style) and 9 times out of 10 the parents responded.

      Pointing out a problem is of little value unless coupled with resources for the family to help resolve their problem. If it is a housing – get that kid in a safe and secure home, if it is abuse – get the kid safely away from it, if the kid is getting into drugs – support the parent and kid in overcoming the addiction, if the parent isn’t doing his/her job then get the kid guardians who can and will….

      Education is a lot cheaper than incarceration. Today’s truant kid is tomorrow (but also probably today’s) criminal.

      • If we’re going to debate Catania’s legislation, we should be clear what the idea is. After 20 unexcused absences, the city would require the parent to take parenting classes or perform some community service. Only if the parent refuses to do either of those options could they be hit with up to 5 days in jail. The parent is given every opportunity to avoid that last sanction.

    • Yeah, but again, the point of the legislation isn’t to lock people up willy-nilly–its to give a consequence to someone who probably has no clue of what responsibly/Consequences actually means. I’ll give you a real world example of consequence–let’s say that you are driving on a street where a know speeding camera exists– Do you zoom by or do you slow down? I’m sure you slow down because if you don’t slow down, then you get a speeding ticket (And who likes those)! So the long and short is that if there is no consequence then you will continue the same behavior unabated. So the question is, How do you affect the behavior of a parent who obviously has no clue of what “responsibility for their child” means? You FINE them! HECK, BE A DECENT PARENT AND YOU WONT GO TO JAIL! It’s Just that simple!

      • Even as a last resort, if the threat of jail or fines were enough to prevent scofflaws from committing crimes — or as CM Cheh and others suggest truant child neglect as a form of child abuse — then we wouldn’t need courts, jails, prisons or criminal lawyers; no one would commit crimes. If mama don’t got no time or mind to make sure Quayshawn or Deandre get to school, she not gonna have time to show up for no bogus parenting exercises or community service. These people don’t care about anything like that; go visit the courts; it’s a parade of perps who see it as the most exciting thing that ever happened in their lives — their moment in the sun.

  • Bring back Michelle Rhee!

  • Hi I’m a DCPS grad, I probably went to a little over half my classes in high school. College grad, gainfully employed, wife, kid, homeowner, etc.

    My sisters also had poor attendance, one is now an ER doctor, the other is in grad school at Cornell.

    Maybe we would all be better off now if someone had fined my parents or better still thrown them in jail. With a little parental incarceration I’d be Elon Mutherfuckin Musk!

    The only person who needed to go to jail while I was in high school was me, and I did. Truancy is primarily an issue in high school, you know, the time when parents often have no control so aside from the joys of having an out-of-control, at risk teen, lets just pile on fines and jail as well!

    • Congrats. You’re the exception. You probably had one good parent or guardian. most of these truants in DeeCee don”t. Stats suggest that 80%+ of the gang drug violent and/or stupid criminals in our courts were first truants before becoming dropouts. We can”t afford to jail them all; better to keep them in school by force if necessary so they are surrounded by a culture created to help them succeed.

  • DC CapHill

    20 truancies? IN A SEMESTER. And people are actually complaining that someone wants to do something to curtail that behaviour. Seriously, some of you need to take a look in the mirror and readjust just how ridiculously low your threshold is for what constitutes a participant in our society. Forget about being competitive with China or India. You think they think even 1 day off is okay? If anything we need MORE discipline, clearly. Bring me Joe MF’ing Clark, pronto! BEAT some damned sense into these little shits, AND their “parents”.

    I wouldn’t even give them 10 days, unless under extreme circumstances, such as Mono, serious bodily injury preventing them from making it to school/too much pain to endure a full school day, et al.

    Wake up, people.

    • Exactly. It’s hard to make up for one day at a good school if you’re sick and earnestly interested in your education. If neither the student or their parent(s) are interested in the student being in school, it’s hard motivate to do all the catch up work.

      Can’t imagine what it’s like for a child whose parent has no idea of their whereabouts during one day — not to mention 5 to 10 to 20 days in a school year.

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