Students to Be Fined for Skipping Class in San Francisco Suburb

Aug 11, 2011

Starting in the 2011-12 school year, skipping class in the San Francisco suburb of Concord is going to be a costly mistake. In July, the city council voted for a daytime curfew; under that curfew, truant students caught in public during school hours can be subject to fines. Has the school board gone too far, or is this a necessary measure to keep students in class?

By Harrison Howe


Sending an Expensive Message

It starts with a warning. Get caught again, and it's $100. Double that for a second offense, and cough up a whopping $500 for the third time you're nabbed skipping class. And parents who know their kids are not in school? They get slapped with the same fine.

But it's not about money, at least not according to Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister. It's about upholding the law, and sending a message to both students and parents that children belong in school. Hoffmeister, addressing truant students on ABC News on July 12th, said, 'We want you to get a good education and avail yourself of those education opportunities so you can be a productive person in your career or in college in the future.'

Truancy has been an ongoing problem in Concord, with vandalism and break-ins tied to students roaming the streets instead of school halls. On an average day, about 12 truant students are picked up by police. Before the curfew, all police officers could do was to return the offenders to school. In some cases, the same student would simply leave the school again and be picked up about an hour or two later!

Curfews Shown to Curb Truancy

The idea of a curfew and fining truant students is not a new one. Earlier this year, police officers in Los Angeles began handing out $240 fines to students who were not in class. Repeat offenders in Anaheim, California, could face up to a $2,000 fine and even spend time in a juvenile detention center. Other cities in the Bay Area, including El Cerrito, Richmond and Pittsburg, already have a daytime curfew in place. These areas have noted a marked drop in truancy.

As with almost any rule, exceptions do apply. Emergency situations and parent accompaniment would not lead to fines. Students out with parent consent are excused. And in some cases, students may be working for credit and on the way to a job, in which case fines of course would not be imposed. Since the curfew targets only public school students, private school and home-schooled students are not affected.

While some see the new policy as a violation of rights, for the most part parents are in favor of the curfew. As expected, students are 'vehemently opposed.'

Some studies show that up to 75% of students who repeatedly skip class eventually drop out; see what some Kansas high schools are doing to keep potential drop-outs in attendance.

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