Should Cops Catch Truants?

October 25, 1991

When the General Assembly convenes in January, Carroll and Frederick counties will submit an interesting request to launch a three-year pilot program in which police officers would have the power to catch students suspected of truancy.

"This is another way to say the rest of the community feels it's important for the students to be in school," said Frederick xTC County Assistant Superintendent David Markoe of the pilot program that officials would like to start next fall. "We just feel this will be another tool to help us get our attendance rates up."

Under the program, police officers could issue a suspected truant a civil citation. Copies would be forwarded to parents, the local school system and the Department of Juvenile Services. Citations would be expunged if school officials found a student had a lawful absence.

Attendance has become an increasingly serious concern among school officials across the state. Last year, attendance in grades 7-12 was one of only two state standards not met by Frederick County schools. And while Carroll schools increased their attendance last year to 94.2 percent, a 10-year high, educators still regard absenteeism and truancy as problems.

The pilot program proposed for Carroll and Frederick counties is a step in the right direction. Citations might, in fact, help school counselors in early intervention efforts so that chronic truants can be returned to classrooms.

A pilot program in two counties would indicate whether truancy detection works or simply increases the work load of local police departments. The bottom line is clear: if students don't go to school, they are not going to perform up to the standards that the state has established. And if they failed to acquire skills with which to compete in the marketplace, they will never realize their dreams or maximize their potential.

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