City takes action to fight truancy 

San Francisco plans to open its first one-stop center next week to deal with truancy and assist students who are chronically missing school.

The Truancy Assistance Resource Center — one of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top priorities in the past year — will serve as The City’s nucleus for truant kids.

As of now, there’s no place for police to take kids who are caught skipping classes. But with the new center, police will be patrolling the streets from 9 a.m. to noon and picking up truant kids and dropping them off at the center.

“We see kids on the street all of the time and we drive by them, wave and do nothing,” said Hydra Mendoza, vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education. “Now we are able to stop and take them to one central location and acknowledge they are truant.”

Truancy has long been an issue in The City. In 2007, a grand jury issued a report pointing to issues with truancy. Since then, the San Francisco Unified School District has worked with community groups to crack down on habitually truant students.

Last year, school officials pooled resources to aggressively go after truants, making calls to parents, writing letters and even making visits to homes, said Meyla Ruwin, senior executive director of the SFUSD’s Student Support Services Department.

In 2009, there were 56,000 students enrolled in San Francisco schools, with 3,000 habitually truant (10 to 19 unexcused absences) and 6,000 chronically truant (20 or more unexcused absences), Ruwin said.

In the past three years, the District Attorney’s Office has cited 29 parents for truancy, which is a $100 fine, Assistant District Attorney Katy Miller said.

Today, the truancy rate is just under 10 percent, Mendoza said.


Stopping truancy

The City is hoping the new Truancy Assistance Resource Center will cut down the number of students missing school.

10-19 Absences to be considered habitually truant

20-plus Absences to be considered chronically truant

56,000 Students in city schools in 2008-09 school year

3,000 Students considered habitually truant in ’08-09

6,000 Students considered chronically truant in ’08-09

29 Parents cited in the last three years by the District Attorney’s Office for truancy

$100 Fine for parents cited

Sources: SFUSD, District Attorney’s Office

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