"One, we are the people. Two, a little bit louder. Three, we want justice. Four, for all students."
Dressed in green graduation caps and gowns, and orange jumpsuits, they chanted, they beat a big drum, and participated in a press conference; then they went into Monday's special session of the L.A. City Council's Public Safety Commitee and made their official public testimony.
For many it was their first time speaking to government officials and a lesson in civics and public engagement.
More than 100 students as well as parents and teachers gathered at the Van Nuys Civic Center to rally in support of a measure that aims to improve how Los Angeles deals with its truant youth. The measure, proposed by L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas, would institute a number of changes to the city's daytime curfew law so as to provide a more holistic approach to student attendance problems that addresses root-causes of truancy and avoids fines.
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L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas and LAUSD board president Monica Garcia walks with students rallying to support a measure that will change how the city deals with its truant students and officially eliminate fines.
A measure to improve how Los Angeles deals with truant students passed one more hurdle Monday morning after it was approved at the city's public safety committee meeting in Van Nuys.
L.A. City Councilmember Tony Cardenas has proposed the city council amend its current truancy law, which allows police to issue $250 tickets to students for being out of class, so that those on their way or running late would not be cited.
The measure is part of an effort to focus on a more holistic, root-cause-based effort to solving student attendance problems so that kids are kept in school.
Reform backers have worked to gain such changes for years and argued that "get-tough" measures actually work against education goals as students then miss time in school going to court.
Such measures have also been criticized by civil rights organizations for unfairly targeting minority students and creating more hardships for students and families.
L.A. County's Education Coordinating Council unanimously adopted sweeping recommendations today to try and combat student attendance and truancy problems in its 81 districts.
The group publicly released its 63-page report today that advocates for a more holistic community-based effort to encourage kids to attend class and moves away from criminalizing and punitive measures.
"This report is not the end all; this report is only the beginning," said the council's vice chair Michael Nash, who chairs the task force and is the presiding judge of the Juvenile Court.
The task force and its working groups plan to continue to meet on a monthly basis to work on creating a technical manual on improving student attendance that districts can follow. The group also hopes to work with the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to try and get free bus passes for students, especially those who are lower-income students.
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A group tasked with finding an answer to L.A. county's student attendance problems will publicly release the findings of their more than year-long study this morning and ask the Education Coordinating Council to adopt its far-reaching recommendations.
The 63-page report emphasizes a more holistic approach to truancy that moves away from criminalization and instead focuses on identifying the root causes of problems students might have in getting to class, whether it be a transportation issue or a difficult home situation.
"Too often, law enforcement has been called upon to impose criminal punishments on children and families, even though research shows that such methods have little impact, and in fact, actually increase the likelihood of school push-out and drop-out," the report states.
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"When I was 16 years old, that's when I got my first truancy ticket," said Jose Solis, 20, to LAUSD board members at today's meeting. "I was three minutes late, I didn't have good transportation. Sometimes I didn't have a choice but to walk 17 blocks to school."
Now Solis is a member of the Inglewood-based Youth Justice Coalition. The group showed up at today's meeting to tell board members why it is important to support a change in L.A.'s daytime curfew law for students.
(Veronica Martinez, 21, shared her trauncy ticket story afterward: "I would be just around the corner from the school, and BAM! — a ticket." She is now a senior at FreeLA High School.)
The change to the city's current law was proposed by Councilmember Tony Cardenas. It looks at narrowing the ability to ticket students who are on their way to school for being truant. The new policy would eliminate fines as a penalty and would also require LAPD data collection and reporting as well as restore a free speech exception.