More Cities Target Teens With Daytime Curfews
Wall Street Journal By LESLIE EATON April 26, 2009
DALLAS — This city is considering joining a rising number of others across the country that are imposing criminal penalties on kids who skip school to hang out at the mall or on local street corners.
Such juvenile daytime curfews to combat truancy and crime are drawing protests from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and from the parents of homeschooled children who, along with some parents of public-school students, object on grounds that such laws in effect criminalize otherwise law-abiding kids who may have good reasons for not being in school.
Homeschoolers, kids who attend private schools on different schedules than the public schools are targets to be stopped. Even public school kids within the same district who might be on year round schedules (or visa versa) will be detained with the assumption of guilt until proven innocent.
Daytime-curfew ordinances usually exempt children who can prove they are taught at home, but homeschooling parents say their kids are upset by repeated challenges from authorities when they shoot hoops in parks or ride their bikes while school is in session.
You’re not exempt if your freedom of movement in a public place is restricted by having to prove your homeschooling status. Texan homeschoolers don’t register or report to school authorities. But a walk to the library terminating in a ride back home in a police car does not sound appealing for homeschooled children. From the WSJ:
About 120,000 families in Texas homeschool approximately 300,000 children, according to the Texas Home School Coalition, an advocacy group based in Lubbock that is fighting curfews.
Home-schooling families were prominent among the roughly 80 people at a city-council hearing Wednesday, and also organized a protest outside City Hall on Monday. Doreen Fisher, a Dallas mother who homeschools her two young children, said she is also concerned about the impact of fines on low-income families.
“I was raised poor,” she said. “I know if I had come home with a $500 fine because I skipped school to get a tan for the prom, it would have been catastrophic.”
In Elyria, Ohio, the school principal and police chief opposed the daytime curfew proposal. Ohio’s Mary Nix posted on HEM Homeschool Support and Networking and here’s an excerpt from the Chronicle-Telegram in February of 2008:
The proposal is being taken up by the Council at the behest of Councilman Forrest L. Bullocks, D-2nd ward, who said he’s heard from several residents who were wondering why they see students wandering around during school hours. The Council’s Public Utilities, Safety and Environment Committee will hear the pros and cons — and that’s all it plans to do tonight, Councilman Kevin Brubaker, D-at large, said.
“I think we will have to look into what kind of benefit this would bring to the city,” Brubaker said. “Our Police Department handles enough keeping the city safe and shouldn’t have to deal with a matter that is best left up to the schools.”
Schools have truant officers and funding from taxpayers to chase down truant kids. Concerned taxpayers dislike the bureaucratic double dipping from the government to perform the same job.
I agree with Texan Doreen Fisher. A $500 fine and/or putting the parent(s) in jail seems inappropriate when kids aren’t engaged enough within the school to stay in the school.
Who and what is causing the real failure here?
Elyria High School Principal Quinn shows accountability to her students and the community. She knows a truant problem is her problem to take on. I think Elyria is fortunate to have Diane Quinn in their schools:
“People must remember that if someone is skipping school, that’s the symptom of a bigger problem, not the problem,” she said. “If parents work with us, we can address attendance issues and correct behavior without the need for a daytime curfew.”
Posted by Susan Ryan