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Letters: The truancy test

October 19, 2013
  • State Attorney General Kamala Harris wants California to pay more attention to the problem of school truancy.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris wants California to pay more attention… (Los Angeles Times )

Re “Truancy is just a symptom,” Opinion, Oct. 13

Ellie Herman's Op-Ed article on truancy brought back many classroom memories from my days as a public school teacher and counselor. She wrote movingly of her students' real-life challenges making it to school, and she correctly summarized why

any one-pronged solution to this complex problem is delusional and why criminalizing truancy is ineffective at best.

We need to identify and then fix the root problems that lead to truancy and the ill effects that ripple throughout society and affect us all.

Fortunately, good, solid work has been done toward that end. Under the direction of Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash, the School Attendance Task Force — a Project of the L.A. Education Coordinating Council — has explored ways to fight truancy based on best practices and research. Better yet, reforms are being implemented in places like the Alhambra Unified School District, which saw a 61% reduction in truancy in two years after it rolled out a mental health program for students.

Implementing these types of reforms requires something from all of us: a culture that values education and puts its money where its mouth is.

Bonnie Latham Lyon, Calabasas
The writer is a vice president at Californians United to Reform Education.

Many students feel disconnected from their school environment thanks to a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

I've had personal experience with a child who did not come from a dysfunctional family but who just could not bear to be at school because of mistreatment by other students, boredom with the curriculum and other reasons that made the student feel out of place.

Many schools do not make accommodations for high-achieving students who need a different structure. Instead, they may be forced to attend school, without understanding why they were constantly truant and without finding a solution that would encourage them to finish high school.

It's time for schools to acknowledge that some children need a more individualized approach to their education.

Anne Sirota

Herman hits the nail on the head. Truancy and other problems in public schools are mostly the symptoms of societal failures, among them financial inequality, the shrinking middle class, unemployment, illegal immigration and discrimination.

A child will have difficulty doing well in school without a safe home, caring parents, adequate nutrition and safe transportation to and from school.

Factors like per-student spending and teacher performance do not come as close to affecting education as problems in our broader society. It is unfair to place on students, teachers and schools the burden of fixing the problems that we as a society refuse to address.

Daniel Fink
Beverly Hills

Herman says that we need to have a “painful conversation admitting the depth of income inequality in California.” What is she, some kind of socialist?

Ray Sherman

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