Truancy crackdown encourages parents

June 11, 2008 11:47:11 PM PDT
On Tuesday the San Francisco District Attorney decided to take a tough new stand on truancy. D.A. Kamala Harris is charging the parents of four kids who constantly skip school. Nevertheless, there were some people trying the carrot, instead of the stick.

Sandra Pegueros is a regular at Mission High School. She's a grandmother of two students who makes sure they come to class.

"All privileges you don't get an allowance or money from me, you'll never get a cell phone," said Pegueros to her grandchildren when she found out they were skipping school.

Pegueros didn't want to end up like the parents of truant students charged with a crime by San Francisco's District Attorney.

Those parents arraigned on Tuesday have kids who missed 50 days or more. There are only 180 school days in the year. Every time a student fails to show up, that is $42 the school district doesn't get from the state.

"Many of the staff people here have students' cell phone numbers. A lot of times when someone is looking for a student, they say, 'Who has so-and-so's cell phone number.' Yeah, we get real personal around here," said Laura Parker, from Mission High School.

Eric Ferreira was a chronic truant. For weeks his school tried to call his home, but there was no phone in the house. A high school counselor reached out to Ferreira introducing him to sports.

"I fell in love with wrestling. My coach, the greatest coach in the world, inspired me to keep going to school," said Ferreira.

Ferreira will attend San Jose State in the fall.

Some truants are as young as six because parents often have child care issues.

"'My mom is sick, she is in the hospital, I don't have anyone to take my child to school.' We have a mom who's homeless," said Sara Shenkan, from Sanchez Elementary, explaining some of the things she hears from students and parents.

The staff at Sanchez Elementary not only calls parents, but makes home visits. There is also an incentive program for students who have near perfect attendance.

"And if they have six weeks of it, they get an ice cream and party and if they get nine weeks of it, it gets better it's pizza," said Shenkan.

Incentives the district says are helping reverse the truancy trend.


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