Concord closer to approving daytime curfew

July 13, 2011 11:58:25 AM PDT
The Concord City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of a new law that will impose a daytime curfew on school-age children, according to city officials.

The council will take a final vote on the ordinance July 26, and the law will go into effect 30 days after that, just in time for the start of the new school year.

According to a staff report, there is a clear link between truancy and juvenile crimes committed by and against minors. Current data from the California Department of Education show that truancy rates in Concord are higher than the state's average, the report states.

Statistics also show that truancy rates in Concord are higher than the average rates in the Mount Diablo Unified School District, which serves Concord, Pleasant Hill and Clayton as well as parts of Walnut Creek and Martinez and unincorporated areas of Lafayette, Pacheco and Bay Point, according to the report.

"(Concord Police Department) research linked incidents of daytime vandalism, fights, thefts, and residential burglaries to truant students," the staff report states.

Concord police conducted five truancy sweeps during the first five months of this year and detained 204 students.

But, under current law, police are only authorized to pick up truant students and bring them back to school.

The proposed ordinance would authorize officers to cite students and possibly even their parents or guardians.

Under the proposed ordinance, first-time offenders would be cited for an infraction and brought back to school. The parents or legal guardians of the child would receive a letter noting the child's truancy that they would have to sign and mail back to the Police Department.

Students would be fined $100 for a second violation, $200 for a third, and the fine would increase to $500 for each violation after that. Parents who knowingly allow their children to skip school could also be fined on the same fee schedule.

A similar ordinance was proposed about 10 years ago, but the council at that time chose not to pass it, in part because the school district didn't support it, Vice Mayor Ron Leone said.

This time, however, the ordinance was brought to the council with support from the school district, the Police Department and many parents, Leone said.

Leone pointed out that the education code already prohibits children from skipping school.

"The only thing this does is add a little teeth to it," Leone said.

"In my opinion, it's good for students, it's good for schools and it's good for the community," Leone said.

He said students who are in school are more likely to learn and less likely to become involved in crime. Additionally, he said, schools, which receive money based on daily attendance, will be better funded if children are in school, and the community will see fewer daytime acts of vandalism, fights and residential burglaries.

Leone said students who do not cut classes will also benefit because teachers won't have to spend extra time dealing with habitual truants and will be able to devote more time to the class as a whole.

Concord is not alone in imposing a daytime curfew on school-age children. In Contra Costa County, the cities of Pittsburg, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Richmond and Hercules already have similar curfew laws.

Although some parents may object to being fined for their children's truancy, Leone pointed out that the education code already states that it is the parents' or guardian's legal responsibility to make sure their children attend school.

"If it's to help the betterment of the majority of students and the majority of the community, then I think we're on the right track," Leone said.

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