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AROUND THE VALLEY

Truancy and Consequences

February 17, 1997|JAMES RICCI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clearly, what's at stake in Tarquino-Klossner's work is more than filling seats in a classroom for this month's attendance report. "When children are involved with school, they just don't get into as much trouble," she explains. "It's only the kids who aren't that drop out, join gangs, get pregnant. If they don't get a feeling of affiliation and identity from school, they go out into the street to find it."

Poor school attendance, in other words, is usually the first notice society gets that a child is headed for the sort of life that troubles the sleep of the responsible and law-abiding. Tarquino-Klossner and her colleagues aren't dealing just with the untidy lives of strangers, but with all of our lives.

These kids missing from their seats in class--we'll likely see them again someday. Imagine encountering the handsome boy in the turned-about baseball cap eight or nine years from now.

Will we be charmed by his good looks as he bags our groceries at Ralphs or strides across the CSUN campus? Or we will be preoccupied with the gun he's holding on us in some dim parking lot?

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