Six parents were booked at Orange County Jail Thursday on charges that they failed to curb their kids’ chronic truancy.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Frank Acosta rode along with City of Orange police when they arrested Virginia Ferrer Avila.
“It looked like she had tears in her eye but not an emotional cry," he said. "It seemed from a distance that she understood what was going on."
Prosecutors charged Avila with two misdemeanors because her middle school child had 21 unexcused absences this school year.
“We conduct truancy sweeps to try to work with the family," said Acosta. "We did home visits, welfare checks to make sure everything was going OK."
Acosta said authorities had told Avila of a state law that holds parents accountable for their kids’ truancy.
“We requested that family to try to get some parenting classes to see what we can do to help them straight the family as far as the attendance issue," he said. "She didn’t follow up on any of that.”
Avila and five other parents were booked on two misdemeanors: contributing to the delinquency of a minor and failure to reasonably supervise or encourage school attendance.
The multi-agency effort is part of a five-year old gang reduction program that targets schools with high truancy. Most parents turn around their kids’ truancy when prosecutors and police contact them. There were no arrests last year.
Jane Newman with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office agrees that chronic truancy is a problem, but also wonders about using police and jails to solve it.
“If law enforcement’s already had meetings with these parents and told them what the consequences are, if that deterrence isn’t working then actually doing it, what does it do?" asked Newman.
"It costs the system. It adds to our court calendars that are dealing with other matters that have perhaps higher priority,” she said.
Newman praised the Orange County effort, and said a court policy to stop enforcing truancy citations of students and guide them toward counseling is working in L.A. County.