City of DeKalb, Truancy Services are Not Your Job

Do you ever go into a store during a weekday when your own kids are in school, and see similarly-aged kids and think, “I wonder why they’re not in school?”

I’ve done so quite reflexively on occasion, and when that happens I say or do…nothing. Because it’s none of my business.

This is between the parents/guardians and whatever school authorities apply to the situation.

Now, city staff are pushing a truancy ordinance that would encourage police officers to enforce what in essence constitutes a curfew during weekdays that District 428 schools are in session, making truancy suddenly the business of the City of DeKalb.

If a school district has a truancy problem and a municipality needs more revenue, it might seem like a good solution on the surface. However, several flaws emerged at last night’s council meeting, not the least of which was any lack of anticipation of how this would affect the kids who are privately schooled.

Fortunately, private schoolers were in attendance to create awareness and I’ll be posting the video.

To me, the lack of empathy displayed by the ordinance author was one of the most shocking developments. Here’s what city attorney Dean Frieders said last night at the council meeting about detaining suspected truants and hauling them into court:

In response to that specific question, again, the second that a student transfers out of public school, regardless of whether there’s a lag in records, the second you’re attending a private school you’re no longer subject to compulsory truancy laws. So, even if the city did theoretically charge someone, which I think is unlikely given the, uh, police force that we have but even if they did, that person would be able to come in, into court and show the judge, “I’m not subject to this ordinance, I’m not a compulsory attendance student, this ordinance has no applicability to me at all.”

So, does he even get that we’re talking about kids here? I am so glad that Alderman Finucane reinforced the possibility of needless childhood trauma. And that Alderman Snow criticized the ridiculous fines. And that Alderman O’Leary would prefer school authorities do their jobs first.

Plus, Frieders at least once said that people were “misunderstanding” the ordinance. In my book, ambiguity is bad when it comes to the possibility of jailing any of our children.

Plus, Frieders apparently doesn’t yet realize that there are a couple of jackholes in every police department in the land from which the public needs protection.

There are a lot of other considerations, including thinking about how such an ordinance might affect the good work the community liaison officers do in our schools. Let’s hear some comment about that.

We could also involve our financial consultants. They’ve cautioned us that in terms of financial survival, we should focus on our core competencies and outsource the rest. Enforcing school rules clearly is not core.

Which brings me to the citizen input at last night’s meeting, which exposed many of the flaws of this ordinance, both human and legal. I will post the video of the discussion separately as I feel it deserves its own space.