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PALM LATITUDES

SCHOOL DAYS : Parent Patrol

July 18, 1993|Sharon Whitley

When 13-year-old George confessed to tagging the walls and floors of Memorial Academy in the Logan Heights area of southeast San Diego, he figured that he'd be suspended for a few days. He was. But he didn't think that his parents would wind up making good on the $1,686 damage by working at the inner-city public school. George's retired father supervised him while he repainted a wall, and his mom worked patrolling the halls for several weeks with a walkie-talkie, earning $7.25 an hour to pay for the $1,200 sandblasting costs. Chagrined that his parents had to pay for his actions, George says he has learned his lesson.

"These parents had no money," says Tony Alfaro, principal of the school that's located in a poor, gang-ridden area. "But they wanted to demonstrate to their child that there was some price that had to be paid. It would be great if more parents would do that."

Believing prevention is better than punishment, Memorial created Parent Volunteers, a group of 70 parents who patrol hallways and restrooms on the lookout for taggers and other misbehavers.

"They're very visible," Alfaro says of the volunteers, who make up a program he believes is the only one of its kind in the San Diego school district. "And the restrooms have remained graffiti- and trash-free since the program started two years ago."

Each Parent Volunteer receives a $50 gift certificate donated from local stores for every nine weeks of daily one-hour service, $100 for two hours. The program not only gets parents involved, it also saves the district money--"at least $60,000 in the past two years," Alfaro says.

It's been so successful that Memorial has implemented another unusual program: Tardy students have to sit in detention and listen to . . . Frank Sinatra music.

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