Re "Taking care of truants," Editorial, Sept. 6
My sixth-graders apparently got the news that police have stopped writing tickets for truancy. Their response? Lunch at Panda Express. Think they ever came back for fifth period? But hey, it's only truancy.
City and school officials are sending a message that The Times endorses: Truancy is not worth enforcing with material punishment. Instead, schools and service agencies should now "address root causes" for the behavior. Why open that door? It's not ours to open. We don't care what issues are in your life. Get your kid to school.
Truants today are dropouts tomorrow; after that, you can start multiplying the social costs. Schools are full of gray areas, and now truancy is squarely in that soft zone adolescents sniff out and exploit. We give them a pass on this, and we get what we ask for.
In addition to the huge number of police citations that are keeping kids out of school, minor in-school infractions are putting thousands more California students on the streets. With support from law enforcement, schools in Fresno, Santa Ana, San Francisco and Sacramento, among others, are adopting alternative disciplinary policies that address this problem. In Oakland, one school has used a restorative justice approach to help cut school suspensions by about 85%.
As a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, I support reforms that will help kids improve their behavior and reduce the enormous number of children compelled to leave school for minor infractions. There are instances where suspension or expulsion is necessary. However, in my line of work, I see firsthand the profound ways in which a relatively minor misstep can disconnect a young person from the path to a healthy, successful life.
Paul M. Walters
The writer is chief of the Santa Ana Police Department.
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