SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KCBS) – San Francisco’s public schools will be in session next week, and city leaders say they will make a point of keeping older students from skipping class. That pledge is part of the ongoing fight against truancy in San Francisco. The city’s campaign includes possible prosecution of parents.
Three years ago, San Francisco’s District Attorney began prosecuting parents of chronically truant students. Since then, the San Francisco Unified School District’s overall truancy rate has dropped 33%, though the bulk of that drop is attributed to the elementary school level. There has been no real change in the truancy rate at the middle and high school campuses.
“Getting a letter from the District Attorney’s office, as a parent, helps,” explained school district Superintendent Carlos Garcia. “And having them say, you know, you are truant and requesting that you attend a mediation to talk about it carries a lot of weight.”
Garcia says the goal isn’t to punish parents, but to help turn students’ lives around.
“In 9 out of 10 cases,” added Mayor Gavin Newsom, “these are families in crisis. And unless you deal with those underlying issues of why that family is in crisis, you’re not going to get to that kid. Obviously, the parents or caregivers haven’t gotten to that kid.”
Officials define a chronically truant student as a child who has 20 or more unexcused absences per school year.