Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fox 5 looks at truancy

Fox 5's News at 10 did an pretty good investigative report this evening on truancy in the District's public schools [not on their website; will update if and when they make it available] pointing out that roughly 20% of DCPS students are truant.

Reporter Sherri Ly was brash enough to stand out in front of Anacostia High School with a camera crew and confront kids walking off of the school campus during school hours asking them why they weren't attending classes. She pointed out that kids of school age who are not in school after 9:30 can be picked up for truancy by the police. The only problem is there were no police to be found. Well, at least until the camera crew started filming. Then both police and school officials made themselves present and began hassling Ly and her crew.

DCPS is supposed to have some processes to combat truancy in place, for instance automated phone calls home when a student is absent. According to people interviewed for the report, though, those phone calls didn't come until weeks after the student began skipping school.

There is some progress being made, however. Since the District started taking truancy more seriously last year there has been about a 200% increase in the number of truant kids picked up by the MPD and a 50% increase in the number of guardians who have been taken to family court over truancy matters. Cardozo is now sending its own police officer and attendance councilor to the student's house. The report also highlighted a couple of cases where students with a history of truancy have gotten help from the system and turned things around. But as Ly says at the end of the report there are still thousands of kids who are missing class each day.

All in all a pretty good report by the Fox team. With any luck they'll post the report up on their web page.

Some of the statistics presented: last school year 56.5% of students were truant at Anacostia High School, 53.8% at Spingarn, 47.6% at Eastern, 46.8% at Ballou and 46.6% at Cardozo. Also, when police in Minneapolis started seriously cracking down on truancy within their city day time crime dropped by 68%.

Previous truancy coverage here.


EdWonk said...

I find it remarkable that this hasn't been addressed. Are D.C. area school campuses "closed" or are they "open?" It sounds as though the word sieve is more applicable than either.

Nathan said...

I believe that they are closed since the cops have the right to pick up school aged kids they find on the street after 9:30 a.m., but I'll have to double check. It was apparent from the broadcast, however, that these just weren't kids who had left the building for some fresh air.