Activists protest school truancy policy

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Activists organized a student and teacher rally Monday afternoon in their continuing protest of truancy policies at the Los Angeles Unified School District. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has more.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Recent data indicates that the truancy rate at L.A. Unified dropped slightly in the last year. A truant is a student who’s late to class at least three times or has at least three unexcused absences. In spite of that drop, L.A. Unified is taking too punitive an approach to truancy, says Lisa Adler of the Labor/Community Strategy Center.

Lisa Adler: One of the things we’re most concerned about right now is the use of what are called 'truancy tickets' or 'daytime curfew tickets.' Students may be cited up to $250 when they’re found truant or oftentimes when they’re simply late to school.

Guzman-Lopez: Adler says the tickets discourage at-risk students from returning to school. She says administrators should concentrate on counseling, not penalties.

Elected officials are moving in the opposite direction. L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge sponsored a motion that would give police added authority to cite students on school grounds. L.A. Unified board member Tamar Galatzan wrote a school board motion to support LaBonge’s motion; she says that nearly half of all truants hide out on campus.