Criminalizing truancy versus focused programs to address truant behavior
2. Criminalizing the parents of truants, which is the sole focus of the proposed legislation in DC by Councilman Catania ("Under Catania bill, parents could be charged if teen child misses too many school days" from the Post) fails to address the problem of truancy, it just criminalizes the parents.
3. But charging and convicting dysfunctional parents with a crime doesn't make the parents more functional and better able to take care of their children.
4. A different and better response would be to develop an enrichment program focused on chronic truants--both the children not going to school and their families.
Today's Chicago Sun-Times has an interesting story, "Program for troubled youths gets presidential visit — and new academic component," about an after-school program focused on troubled youth in Chicago. The program was first oriented to sports and athletics, and while criminal activity by the youth decreased significantly, their academics didn't improve. So they added math tutoring to the program, and their scholastic performance increased quite a bit.
From the article:
Last year, the University of Chicago Crime Lab announced violent-crime arrest rates fell 44 percent among about 800 students who participated in a program called “Becoming a Man — Sports Edition.” ...
While researchers were impressed with the results of the BAM program in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, “we were not turning the F student into a C student or a B student,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
With funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Justice Department, the University of Chicago Crime Lab decided to see whether combining math tutoring with the BAM program would spark academic improvements in the students. ...
Twenty-two of them participated in the combination of tutoring and BAM. They saw bigger gains in their grade-point averages, lower absenteeism and fewer course failures than their 32 counterparts who participated only in BAM, Ander said.
Meanwhile, the BAM-only students improved tremendously compared to a control group of at-risk students who weren’t in the program at all. ... “When they’re in an environment with their peers, it’s hard to focus,” said John Wolf of the crime lab. “Put them in an environment that fosters their learning and they want to learn.”
People don't go to school because "they don't like school."
Likely, they don't like school because they're not good at it.
Likely they're not good at reading (and writing) and math, so of course they don't like school.
Criminalizing their dislike doesn't make it go away. Addressing their ability to read, write, and do arithmetic, combined with other initiatives will combat truancy far more successfully.
A program like the one in Chicago is a good model for a better response.