Another morning of seeing the 9:00am cops packing their truancy vans full of teens and carting them off to sit in cold storage for the day.
Please don’t misunderstand. Truancy is a problem. A big problem. But I don’t really see these officers as doing anything about the problem. They strike me more as just trying to fill a quota: ‘Oh, we picked up X-number of kids today. See, we’re fighting truancy.”
After all, they’re basically shooting fish in a barrel. They don’t go too far afield to look for kids who aren’t in school when they should be. Instead, they set up their vans within a block or two of a school, or outside the subway entrance closest to a school, or (in the case of the cops I saw this morning) at a bus stop really close to a school. They wait for 9:01, and then they grab every kid they see. And let’s be honest. If you’re a kid skipping school, it’s fairly unlikely that you’re going to be running up from the train headed right for your school building at 9:01. It seems more likely that you’re running late for school and trying to get there. You aren’t the kid who needs to be picked up. Maybe scolded for sleeping late and then sent on your way, but being trucked off to sit in a room full of ‘truants’ all day seems counterproductive to say the least.
Of course, it’s much easier to nab these non-truant kids than it is to really go out looking for the kids who aren’t showing up for school. Teens are even more notorious for sleeping late than I am, so there are always plenty of late ones to be tagged and loaded into the truancy bus.
So what would it take to inspire a real response to truancy … to organize — and fund — the kind of outreach that might not only finds the kids who are avoiding school but also finds out what’s going on with them and looks for ways to offer them the services and supports that might bring them back to school and help them stay there? Not exactly the job of police with vans and quotas.
I know that what I’m suggesting is harder work, that it is actual work. I know that. And I know that it must be someone’s work. And yet no one seems able or willing to take it on.