Personally, when I think of a "truant officer," I imagine a sour-faced, pot-bellied character from some long-ago episode of "The Little Rascals." A washed-up killjoy on the same level of semi-threatening villian as, say, a dog-catcher. But apparently some towns in Kentucky are bringing back the trend, and the consequences for "truant" kids are a lot more severe than anything Spanky or Alfalfa had to deal with.
In fact, thanks to a daytime curfew that went into effect on January 2, police in In Covington, Kentucky, are now legally allowed to arrest kids who are found "truant" (i.e., not in school during school hours). Once apprehended, cops have the option of taking a kid back to school, returning him to the custody of his parents, slapping the kid (and possibly the parents) with a court date, and/or charging the kid (and, again, possibly the parents) with a misdemeanor.
Why not just lock the kid up in the pound until the parents pay for dog human tags?
Look, I get what they're trying to do -- boost high school graduation rates, slash juvenile crime rates, blah blah blah. And sure, I guess a teen faced with the choice between sucking it up and going to algebra class or risk being put in a pair of handcuffs might decide algebra ain't so bad after all.
But all of that is beside the point, which is this: Arresting minors for breaking an imposed daytime curfew is a violation of civil liberties. That's why curfews -- day or night, juvenile or adult -- should be fought, and usually are. Curfews are associated with some pretty hairy times in history; some pretty oppressive political types (yes, incuding the Nazi party). As a mom, I understand the seduction for parents; the concept of having a theoretical "village" helping to watch over your kids is somewhat comforting. But in reality, a curfew like the one in Covington, Kentucky is more like having Big Brother flat-out watching your kids.
And that's not comforting at all.
Never mind the impracticality, the potential for day-to-day, individualized injustice. What about kids who are being homeschooled? What about a kid who has a morning orthodontist appointment or gets sent home early for a sore throat?
Imposing a daytime curfew on kids is, without a doubt, un-American. And if I lived in a town where I had to worry about my kid being ARRESTED for walking down the street in the middle of the day, I would, without a doubt, be packing our bags.
Do you think giving teens a daytime curfew is un-American?
Image via Paul Sullivan/Flickr