Council Committee Approves Amended Truancy Bill
4/3/2013, 9:55 a.m.
Rita Jackson, a Southeast resident who has worked with DCPS students in after-school programs, said that although truancy seriously needs to be dealt with, sending parents to jail is not the answer.
"Truancy in this city has been going on for decades . . . but it seemed like with Catania's bill they were just trying to put parents in jail to help fill up the cells,'' Jackson said. "Putting parents in jail would be wrong because many would end up with a record or losing their jobs or both."
Both Mayor Vincent C. Gray, 70, and Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry had assailed Catania's jail proposal, but said after the bill's revision that they were glad the matter was generating more attention.
Barry, 76, was particularly pleased, saying, "the bottom line [had been] that there [were] no real consequences if these kids [didn't] show up for school."
While Barry maintained that city officials - including DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson - had not taken truancy seriously enough, Lee F. Satterfield, a judge in the D.C. Superior Court, stated in a recent editorial that in 2011, after Gray sought to address truancy, a citywide task force was created.
Satterfield, 54, wrote that his colleague, Judge Zoe Bush who presides over family court issues, approached Henderson about re-starting a truancy diversion program involving judges, principals, school attendance counselors and mental health professionals. The program would be similar to the Citywide Truancy Task Force, that fell by the wayside four years ago when Adrian Fenty was mayor.
"To her credit, Henderson did not give us the polite 'no,' as Rhee did, but agreed to programs in two middle schools," Satterfield wrote. "Unfortunately, school officials dragged their feet for so long that by the time the programs were approved, half of the school year was over, dramatically reducing what could be accomplished."