By Connie Llanos and Melissa Pamer, Staff Writers – LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/aLnJ3z
12 Nov 2010 -- You could call it detention hall for ditchers or a time-out for truants.
Just don't call it fun.
In an effort to curb the number of students playing hooky, Los Angeles Unified recently opened Attendance Improvement Centers at eight of its campuses, including one at Sepulveda Middle School in North Hills.
Instead of giving citations to students they find roaming the streets during school hours, LAPD and LAUSD police will be taking the truants to the new centers. There, students will be given grade-appropriate assignments to work on until their parents pick them up.
"The idea is for this to serve as a deterrent and as intervention," said Dionne Ash, a pupil services coordinator for Los Angeles Unified.
"It's not made to be a happy place ... We want kids to come here and not be happy. That way they won't do it again."
The attendance centers were established in vacant classrooms late last month at schools throughout the district at an annual cost of $206,000 each to operate.
District officials expect the program to pay for itself in attendance-based state funding, which averages $32 daily per student.
According to the California Department of Education, more than 5 percent of LAUSD's 688,100 students were truant for three or more days during the 2008-09 school year. That means the district lost out about $3 million that year because of truancy.
Officials note the attendance centers will likely boost funding, but say that improving student achievement is their primary goal.
"The Attendance Improvement Centers are places where we intend to get students back on track by providing options to truancy and drop out," said Judy Elliott, the district's chief academic officer.
"The AIC is but one way to provide a multi-pronged approach to keeping students in schools and off the streets," she said. "Our goal is 100 percent graduation. To that end, we must create the options our students need."
The centers are modeled on a successful program developed about 15 years ago at Long Beach Unified, where Elliott was an administrator.
Some of the details of the program are still being worked out. For instance, the Los Angeles Police Department and county Sheriff's Department, whose officers are on the lookout for truants, have not yet signed documents agreeing to transport errant students to the centers.
"We are talking to police officers on the ground, though, and everyone seems to be on board," Ash said.
The fledging program also has been criticized by some community members, who said it was launched without a thorough review by parents and students.
"Fundamentally, there has been a lack of transparency in the way this process has unfolded," said Manuel Criollo, lead organizer for the nonprofit Community Rights Campaign, which wants to do away with citations and fines for student truants.
Criollo questioned what kinds of assignments truants will be given while waiting for their parents and whether other kinds of services would be more appropriate.
"If students are getting worksheets, then there is no engagement and no real teaching," Criollo said. "If there is no individualized attention, then you never get to the core of why this young person is late or ditching school."
Ash, however, urged parents and community members to learn more about the program before criticizing it.
"This was designed to be an alternative for students," Ash said. "This is a place where we can interact with them and their parents to understand what is causing the truancy and find a way to get them back in school."
●● smf's 2¢: OK: So the police pick up the truant kids and transport them to the centers (which they have not agreed to do nor have the legal authority to do) and the kids do grade-appropriate assignments until their parents pick them up.
And then their parents:
- Take them home (….which doesn’t qualify for ADA reimbursement).
- Take them to school.
What if the police just took the truants to directly to the school? It seems to me that’s how it was done back in the “olden days”.
What do the truant centers do with charter school and private school students?
If the parent does not or cannot pick up their child – or cannot be even be reached - does the student rot in in the truant center like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”?
….And then there’s this: Besides for LAPD and County Sheriffs LAUSD exists in 24 other jurisdictions. And are malls and the streets of Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, Inglewood, Torrance, the Beach Cities and Beverly Hills ‘sanctuary’?