Crime & Truancy


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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32 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Truancy laws make NO sense. The only reason the state should get involve is if it is at the parents’ request. And even then, the kids should be brought home for the parents to deal with. Such bullcrap.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

      I think truancy laws spring from laws mandating education for children. The punitive and court based aspect is not needed to have truancy laws but it just what makes America special.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

        I don’t know how truancy laws can function in any reasonable capacity without a punitive aspect for non-compliance.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

          Well if there is to be any punishment it should typically be aimed at the parents. We have laws children must be educated but don’t drag the parents in to school. The parents are usually sent to child protective services who try to help solve the families problems and offer options. I’ve had a fair amount of experience with these kind of families. Offering counseling to the kids and adults, substance abuse counseling to the parents, economic supports alt school programs and various other social program type stuff solves most of the problems. When you have older teens who refuse to go to school then that can be a entire different kettle of fish. Drugs or overt criminal behavior are usually involved at that point. Sometimes a GED course or Job Corps is the best option.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

            What about the mother who simply can’t keep an eye on her kids because she’s trying to hold down the household’s costs by working long hours or works a job that it is a real hardship to leave to pick the kid up from school? I don’t have a problem with parent-aimed punitivity when we’re dealing with parents with the means to assure that their kids are going to school and the ability to receive them if they’re not, but this is frequently not the case.

            I don’t disagree investigating families of kids who are not in school and removing the kid if there is a present danger (though my trust level with the CPS is not remarkably high). And I’m all about alternative schooling programs. But I don’t think that truancy laws, per se, are required for this.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

              “I don’t have a problem with parent-aimed punitivity when we’re dealing with parents with the means to assure that their kids are going to school and the ability to receive them if they’re not, but this is frequently not the case.”
              How does a parent do this besides escorting their child from class to class? My mom was a teacher at an independent school the next town over from the district I went to public school in. She left for work before I left for school and came home after I did. What was she supposed to do? What is any parent supposed to do?Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

              I’ve rarely seen a child removed for not attending school. One thing i have seen CPS do is give the parent taxi vouchers so the kid can get to school or set up a special bus service to pick up the kid. I don’t it should be punitive except in exceptional circumstances.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman says:

              I’ve had that case as a judge pro tem. The law, as written here in California, holds the parent culpable for the child’s repeated non-attendance at school. It’s a strict liability law, so it doesn’t matter at all that the parent has the best excuses in the world.

              In the case I handled, I was indeed moved by the parent protesting that a) her son is fifteen and decides for himself what to do, and b) she’s a single mom working two jobs and has very little time to directly and personally supervise her kids. As I read the law, I had no choice but to impose the fine on her based on the facts before me, but I felt very unhappy doing it. To have not found her guilty and thus imposed the fine would have been me substituting my judgment about what the law ought to be in place of the Legislature’s.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      The only truancy laws I can really get behind are ones that say “You don’t have to go to school, but we’re going to do what we can to prevent you from getting the day off.” Put them in in-school detention for the day and let them out at the bell. Even that, though, does not seem like a very good allocation of resources. How much of an education do you expect a kid who was forced to attend to actually get. Horse, water, drink.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        This is why I think we need to give high school aged kids more options. You don’t want to go to school? Find… you can go to vocational training. Or get a job.Report

  2. Avatar Steve S. says:

    Why do we as a society have such an intense mania to incarcerate people of all ages for every conceivable offense?Report

  3. Avatar Aaron says:

    There’s an important lesson to be learned from this story: It’s not truancy to fall asleep in class.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    One of the more frustrating aspects to this whole thing is that this is something that we, as a society, have simply sort of agreed on. It’s not like there’s a political party or relevant ideology for it and another against it. Nor is it even like one side would be against it (it being one-size-fits-all, compulsory education) but has to pretend in order to avoid being hammered politically (as with the war on drugs, for example, or SSM a decade ago). Everyone agrees that kids should be in school. I genuinely view the above, and other nearly-as-bad results, as the logical – if ludicrous – extension of that.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

      Of course, nobody actually ever criticised anyone about this, or even said that they might. But still, it’s a win-win. You can pass a law and A: tell people how the law shows you ain’t no wimp, B: tell people that since the law is about kids and schools it shows you care, and C: tell people how the Other Guys are a bunch of bastards who’d have called you an uncaring wimp if you didn’t pass it.

      The takeaway, of course, being that you’re a tough guy who cares, and the Other Guys are bastards.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I like it when truancy laws are used to go against homeschoolers.Report

    • Avatar dhex in reply to Kolohe says:

      semi-serious – would a homeschooler sneaking into a public school be considered truant?Report

        • Avatar dhex in reply to Kolohe says:

          why don’t they just start a homeschool league? a few of them quiverfull families and you not only have a starting lineup, but a practice squad, jd, cheerleaders, band and some butterfingers to work the concessions.

          “The bill would have banned public schools from partnering with the Virginia High School League — which governs high school activities in the state — because it forbids home-schoolers from playing sports or being involved in other programs such as drama, debate and yearbook.”

          ok, i can see stumping for sports or bye bye birdie, but yearbook? c’mon.Report

  6. Avatar karl says:

    Punish truants with suspension.Report

  7. Avatar M.A. says:

    Social safety nets to make sure that struggling parents have help getting their kids to school or have a hand up to work a few less hours in order to supervise the kids’ attendance at school will require money.

    Social safety nets that would help this poor girl would require money.

    Examining right wing radio recently, it seems two of the most important things for a conservative to be are “tough on crime” and completely unwilling to spend money even if it would be the compassionate thing to do.

    To the larger point of why truancy laws exist, they were put in place when most of the USA was functionally illiterate. A society that can read and write is a society that theoretically has people able to learn and become more adept workers than a society of illiterate drones. At least that was the theory until we stole American Idol from the brits. I find it somewhat entertaining today – again following from my examinations into right wing radio – how strong an antipathy the conservative movement has not just for early education, but for all education in general. It’s almost as if many of them are downright proud of being uneducated and ignorant or as I would put it, of wasting the free opportunity they were given to get a strong education.Report

  8. Avatar Trumwill says:

    To the larger point of why truancy laws exist, they were put in place when most of the USA was functionally illiterate.

    I’m not going to respond to the rest of the comment, but though compulsory education laws have been on the books for a while, but it is more recently that it’s been enforced in a meaningful capacity (especially among older kids). One of the early motivators was simply keeping them out of the workforce and keeping them from depressing wages. Make it so they can’t be hired (because they’re supposed to be in school) and it was performing its function. If some kids didn’t go to school but twice a week, so be it.

    That changed at some point. I’m not sure when.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I can’t speak for other states but in KY truancy is handled differently depending on the child’s age. If they are in elementary school (K-5) then it is treated as a social work issue. I have a close family member who does this work. The stories are very sad and there are a surprising number of parents who simply don’t care until they get an order to appear in court. Ultimately they can be charged with educational neglect under our state laws.

    Middle school and above (6-12) truancy is treated as a disciplinary issue and the kids are targeted by truancy officers. The law allows kids to drop out at 16. There is legislation currently being proposed to make that 18.Report

  10. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    The fact that Truancy is treated as a crime and not a symptom is one of those things that illustrates a cultural failing in the US in general regarding juvenile offenses.Report

  11. Avatar damon says:

    This was all about power and control. The kid was learning. “A judge threw a 17-year-old 11th grade honor student from Willis High School in jail after she missed school again ” The kid was an honors student. But no, it’s not about LEARNING, it’s about being in a school for the right amount of time for the right amount of duration.

    Of course, when she grows up and goes to college, “attendance” will be 10% of her grade, at best, and when she goes to work, results vs time put in will likely be the key, so this is totally screwed up.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to damon says:

      One thing I notice about the US versus New Zealand is that compliance seems to be a much bigger deal for you guys. The issue is that she wasn’t following The Rules and that’s all that matters. You can even see this in the Judge’s comments “if I don’t jail her, then I’ll have to let all the other truants off too” in which he shows no conception of judicial discretion. It doesn’t matter that she’s clearly getting educated, so who cares if her ass isn’t always in the chair? But it’s not about education, it’s about following The Rules.Report