Police Tickets Could Raise The Cost Of Playing Hooky

Schools To Throw The Book At Truants

October 09, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Carroll students caught skipping school may receive more than a police escort back to the classroom next September.

They may get tickets.

The Carroll and Frederick school systems are being tapped to participate in a pilot program that would allow police officers to issue citations to students suspected of truancy.

Currently, police officers do not have the authority to issue citations to classroom shirkers. They can and do, however, return truants to schools, said 1st Lt.Kenneth L. Tregoning, commander of the Westminster barracks of the state police.

Although the program would allow police to issue citations for truancy, the school system would determine whether an unlawful absence occurred, said Edwin L. Davis, Carroll's director of pupil services and special programs.

Citations would be expunged if school officials found a student had a lawful absence, such as a death in the family or an illness. In the event of an unlawful absence, theschool could pursue a variety of options, including parent conferences or intervention programs, before turning the case over to Department of Juvenile Services, which could set a fine, Davis said.

Tregoning said a $25 fine has been bandied about, but nothing definite hasbeen proposed. A civil citation with a fine attached might be a deterrent for some class cutters, he said.

"Children don't like to part with money and neither do parents," he said. "Hopefully, the (program) would help keep children in school. Police support the concept. We would be more than willing to participate with the school system."

An outline of the program, sponsored by the Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute of the Police Training Commission, is before the Carroll Board of Education today. The board's approval is needed before the district can participate in the program.

If Carroll andFrederick agree to participate, a sponsor will be sought to incorporate the program -- limited to the participating counties as a pilot -- into legislation, said Min Leong, assistant branch chief of Pupil Services of the Maryland Department of Education.

"We hope to beginSeptember of next year," said Leong, a representative on the education committee of the law enforcement group. "It's fairly tentative."

Educators and police officials see the program as another tool to combat absenteeism. Although absenteeism is not high in either Carrollor Frederick, the counties were chosen because the sponsors thought a pilot program would be manageable in semi-urban areas, Leong said.

Attendance has become a greater concern among school officials across the state with the implementation of the Maryland School Performance Program. As part of the state's reform plan, attendance is one ofthe non-academic student participation areas, in addition to promotion and dropout rates, used to measure success and target improvement.

Carroll's attendance rate during the 1990-1991 school year reached 94.2 percent, up from 94.1 percent the year before and a 10-year high for the district.

Although educators have initiated a variety of attendance-boosting programs, ranging from adult mentors and peer counselors to incentive activities, such as pizza parties, there is always room for improvement, Davis said.

Educators see the law enforcement program as both a prevention and intervention tool to deal with chronic absenteeism.

"Intervention that happens early provides the greatest chance of success for students," said Davis. "We have a greater chance of stopping someone who is truant at 13 than when they are 17 or 18. It won't solve all our problems. It's not the end of truancy in schools."

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