Students Rally to Amend Truancy Law
The Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee unanimously approved changes to a truancy law Monday that would eliminate a fine for skipping school that can reach up to $250.
Students, teachers and activists in Van Nuys rallied Monday in support of the amendment to L.A.’s truancy law. The students feel that the current truancy law is actually causing graduation rates to fall.
Councilman Tony Cardenas proposed the plan, which would introduce new penalty options for a first or second truancy violation. By this standard, students could either propose a plan to improve their attendance or participate in community service or other after-school programs.
The amendment would decriminalize the ticket to an infraction and lower the fine. Councilman Cardenas stated that he does not want to have high school students treated like criminals.
“What we end up doing is getting kids involved in the juvenile justice system for being late to class and that is not a crime,” he said. “That’s something we need to stop on many levels.”
Under the current law, students who are late for school are handcuffed, fingerprinted, and charged a hefty fine. For many low-income families, the cost of truancy tickets is enormous.
"There are a lot of stories that are unheard," said student Nabil Romero. "Instead of being asked why [truancy] happens, we are ticketed. It works backwards. It's not helping anybody."
Another student commented that such a fine “means we have to cut back on all the stuff that is necessary in the house like milk.” Many kids are so afraid of getting fined that they choose not to go to school at all if they could potentially be tardy.
Laura Faer, Education Right Director for public counsel, said there is no doubt that truancy tickets actually keep students out of school.
"What is incredible about this motion and councilmember Cardenas' leadership is that if this motion is passed I think that we will see far more kids attending school because they'll know instead of getting a fine they'll be getting resources," Faer said.
Forty-seven thousand truancy tickets have been issued in the past five years. The Van Nuys City Council will hold a hearing Monday to discuss an amendment to the current law and the Los Angeles City Council deal with the proposal next.
The new amendement to the truancy law would also require LAPD to publish statistics twice a year, reporting how many minors were issued tickets along with their demographic information.