Cut school, pay $250

skippingschool21.jpgOn the average day, as many as 4,000 Oakland kids (out of more than 40,000 public school chidren) are out of school, according to an analysis by the Oakland Think Tank, an independent local group which has identified truancy as the city’s number one problem.

The OTT has urged the school district and various city and county agencies to create a special program that looks at short-term and long-term fixes. Read its truancy resolution here.

Of course, Oakland isn’t the only community dealing with the effects of chronic school-skippers. In fact, the Oceanside Police Department has recently unveiled an idea of its own to stem truancy in the San Diego-area city (school district enrollment: 21,000).

According to the Associated Press, Oceanside cops want the authority to fine truants and order them to do community service. As of now, as I understand it, police have two options for kids who ditch class: Detain them or take them back to school.

How well do you think such a fine would work in Oakland — or anywhere else, for that matter? What solutions would you put forward?

Here is the AP story:

Oceanside police want $250 fines for kids who ditch school

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ Kids who ditch school in Oceanside could soon face $250 fines.

The Oceanside Police Department wants the city to give officers authority to fine truants or order them to perform community service.

State law allows police officers to detain truant students and escort them home or to school. But the ordinance being considered by the City Council on Wednesday would impose fines or community service.

Oceanside Unified School District superintendent Larry Perondi favors the plan, saying fines might get the attention of aloof parents.

Police Chief Frank McCoy says daytime crimes would likely drop significantly, noting juveniles were responsible for 45 percent of the 47 cases of robbery, residential burglary, graffiti and auto theft solved so far this year.

image from Stabbins Lee’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    An interesting problem. You have to remember that students would not be cutting classes if they didn’t make the rational judgement that it was in their interests to do so. They are telegraphing that the costs of skipping out are low and the rewards are high.

    I argue that the schools don’t match the students – that everybody involved is going through the motions so that OUSD can get their ADA money, the teachers can have jobs (they have nowhere better to go) and the parents want babysitting. So there is little pressure from any quarter to actually have a school that is worth anything. especially when the worthless schools serve the proletariat anyway who are not known for careful shopping.

    In a “real” school situation the students would not cut because it would cost them more than they were willing to pay. For example, how many people “cut” Police Academy, Law School, Med School, Nursing School, or any other “real” school where the education is precious and students value being allowed to go. What’s the absentee rate at Piedmont High?

    Anything OUSD does to start running “real” schools would reduce the absentee problem.

    That means segregating the schools and matching students to programs – by competition and merit. You’d need a program anybody would compete for 1st. I suggest OUSD copy Lowell High School in San Francisco. For the sake of argument take Oakland Tech or some other campus and open it to districtwide enrollment on a competitive basis – no affirmative action (that would need to be advertised). Give it your more accomplished teachers and best equipment and sophisticated classes. Kick out any non-performing students.

    Watch what happens to that attendance rate.

    Otherwise high cut rates are a warning that the programs and policies of the campuses involved have no perceived value. They should be adjusted. Maybe increase the voc ed, maybe increase the number of male teachers, maybe boost the football program – whatever.

    No student wants to attend unsafe, dirty or chaotic schools. Could that be a factor?

  • Doowhopper

    I agree for the most part with Nextset (highly unusual occurence) that schools need to match up way better than they do now with students needs and ability level.
    It is true Oakland has a high absentee problem but if truth be told,most of the kids that cut are the ones most likely to be disruptive and non compliant with the academic program. Therefore a teacher, a sub like myself or a regular one, often breathes a sigh of relief when Johnny or Johnetta does not show up because we know he or she not being there can make the difference between a constructive day and one filled with drama.
    These chronic truants need to be in a place like Dewey where there are small classes and specialized instruction tailored to their alienation and disaffection for the system. When you force these kids to attend just for the sake of filling up a seat, you create a very angry and non co-operative individual who messes it up for everyone else.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset, you are implying that these kids are making rational decisions for the LONG-TERM when in fact you know they are making decisions only in the SHORT-TERM: Free day vs. school day. Or you are just blurring the two. Of course, many of these kids have role-models who are themselves always emphasizing short-term goals over long-term goals, so they find it very hard to so themselves.

    Additionally, the idea that we all act rationally in our best interests is itself ludicrous when one considers the erratic behavior and choices made because of depression and other mental illness, and addictions. If I play my addictive videogames all day or stay stoned all day or stay in bed all day, am I really making a “rational” choice? No, I’m just choosing to escape reality for the short-term, to avoid pain.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: Low IQ people live in the present. They are present oriented. Proletariat youth tend to be low IQ. Big Time…

    That doesn’t mean they are completly incapable of rational thought. Those cutting class do so because the school they are assigned to is perceived as having little value – at all, short term and long term.

    My point is that OUSD shouldn’t just dismiss the collective wisdom of the market – the fact that many of their students walk out of class. OUSD should change things so that their schools have more value to their proletariat students (including short term value).

  • Sue

    I have to agree with Cranky teacher, kids in school aren’t thinking long-term when they cut classes.

    I cut classes a couple of times in high school, but not enough to become a truancy problem. I had very high IQ scores, but wasn’t very successful socially. Cutting classes was a way to hang out with the cool/popular kids, and be a bit less of a nerdy-girl.

    I expect I’ll see it happen with my younger son in a few more years. He’s very bright and fairly socially successful. When/if it does happen, we’ll have a talk about the consequences, and that will include discussing my husband’s lack of education.

    He’s the most intelligent person I’ve ever met, but his education was pretty much over after 4th grade. We’ll skip the long Dickensian tale of his unfortunate childhood (here and with the kid conversation), but we’ll emphasize the consequences of that lack of education.

    But asking a kid to think about the long-term on his own, without parents or adults raising the subject, seems like expecting maturity beyond the kid’s years.

    One of the rare advantages of the older son’s autism – he has a full-time one-on-one aide, so he’s never going to have the opportunity to cut classes.