By Boardmember Tamar Galatzan, from her constituent e-newsletter
October 15, 2009 -- Should you want to produce numbers to show that the District has a truancy problem, good luck finding them. In recent weeks, I have learned that those figures have either never been maintained or are simply unavailable.
But despite the absence of actual data, we know that LAUSD does have problems with truancy. How many of us have driven past high schools and middle schools in the San Fernando Valley and seen small groups of students hanging out while their peers are attending class? Truancy not only costs the District money (again, we don't know much), but it often leads to more serious criminal behavior.
On October 20th, I am conducting a hearing in the Committee of the Whole to discuss effective ways of dealing with truancy. I have asked representatives from Verdugo Hills High School, which is regarded by Los Angeles School Police as a pioneer in this effort, to speak, as well as officials in the Los Angeles School Police. With the district in the midst of a major initiative to achieve a one hundred percent graduation rate, now is the time to attack truancy with a smart program that focuses on intervention, but is backed up by law enforcement efforts.
••smf’s 2¢: LAUSD, like all major urban school districts, has a truancy problem – no doubt about it – and better and no worse than other major school districts. The data that Ms. Galatzan can’t find is collected by the District and reported to the California Department of Education; it is available online here. It doesn’t take luck to find it, it takes Google.
Truancy and Dropouts are two sides of the same coin, the young people that Ms. Galatzan describes as a law enforcement problem (she is a career prosecutor) ARE in violation of California’s Mandatory Education Law, which requires minors to attend school until they graduate or reach 18. That law says that any student who is absent from (or late to) class without an excuse more than three times in a year is a “habitual truant” – a strict standard in terms of tardiness that may need revisiting.
However a more enlightened approach to this problem than rounding up truants in sweeps (the “Tardy Sweep”, where kids are rounded up for NOT being in class and then KEPT FROM class is a 4LAKids pet peeve …is this Dickensian, Kafkaesque or Orwellian justice?) - or hauling truants and their parents before a judge and fining them - is demonstrated below in the story about Student Recovery Day – which I understand Boardmember Galatzan is participating in.
CDE/DataQuest: Los Angeles Unified Expulsion, Suspension, and Truancy Information for 2008-09 (other years available)