LANCASTER – Studies reveal that nine of 10 youths detained have a history of chronic truancy. While many schools in the Antelope Valley are making strides in reaching parents and students to prevent truancy, some local elementary schools report truancy rates as high as 55 percent, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
Recognizing the link between truants and crime, the District Attorney’s office on Tuesday tackled the issue at an all-day forum at the Lancaster Learning Complex.
“Keeping students in school is a community effort,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a press statement. “Often, when students are not in school they are getting in trouble. I am pleased that through this forum we are marshaling resources to get children back into the classroom.”
Early truancy prevention ultimately increases graduation rates and abates long-term criminal behavior, Lacey stated.
Titled “A Collaborative Approach to Reducing Truancy in the Antelope Valley,” the forum’s speakers included Lydia Bodin, deputy-in-charge of the District Attorney’s Abolish Chronic Truancy (A.C.T.) program; Judge Geanene Yriarte of the Los Angeles County Superior Court; and Bureau Chief Paul Vinetz of the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
Bodin’s presentation covered the basic structure of truancy law, the types of daytime loitering/truancy tickets, the Education Code process, and the consequences and criminal charges parents could face for failing to send their children to school. California’s Compulsory Education Law requires that every child ages 6 to 18 attend school daily.
Most people believe truancy is a prevalent issue for high school students, but chronic truancy often originates at the elementary school level, Bodin said.
Almost 40 percent of all truant students in California are elementary school children, and A.C.T. helps students and parents get back on the right track, according to Bodin.
The program places District Attorney’s Office personnel in elementary schools to work with administrators, teachers, parents and students to intervene at the very beginning of the truancy cycle. Parents are informed that it is their legal responsibility to ensure their children attend school. If there are problems interfering with the ability of the child to go to school, District Attorney personnel attempt to find community resources to help overcome those problems. Read more about the A.C.T. program here.
If the child continues to be truant, legal action can be taken against the student, the parent, or both. As a last resort, parents who fail to send their children to school may be prosecuted. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $2,500 per child and up to one year in county jail.
For more information about school attendance laws, visit the California Department of Education’s website at www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ai/tr/.
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