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Thousands of students cited for playing hooky get a break

Thousands of L.A. students who got tickets for playing hooky are getting a big break.

Truancy citations for students who were late to class will be dismissed under new guidelines released last week by Judge Michael Nash, who is the presiding judge of L.A.'s Juvenile Court.

Under the new rules, the courts will dismiss the $250 tickets if students can prove they were late or on their way to school when cited by an officer. The new rules go into effect immediately.

Students with chronic truancy will have 60 days to improve their attendance record and to take and complete programs to help them get back on track in school. Those who don't may be sentenced to community service or have their driving privileges suspended.

The guideline change comes roughly two months after the Los Angeles School Police Department said it would relax its truancy policy and limit tickets issued to students for not being in class.

Reform backers supported the changes and said such "get-tough" measures actually work against education goals since students then miss time in school going to court and the dropout rate may actually increase.

Such truancy measures have also been criticized by civil rights organizations for unfairly targeting minority students and creating more hardships for students and families.

Public Counsel spokesman Michael Soller told the Daily News students will still have to go to court to get the tickets dismissed, although the courts are working to make the process less onerous. According to Public Counsel, more than 47,000 tickets were issued between 2004 and 2009.

A proposal making its way through the Los Angeles City Council would do away with fines for curfew violations.

City Councilman Tony Cardenas, who has been working on the issue, said the change was "the right way to work on the issue of student truacy."

"These changes will now give the proper professionals the opportunity to work with our children, get them back in school and on the right track," he said.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email or on Twitter (@LATams).

Audio: KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez with more: