Guess what -- good news! Los Angeles may soon do something about its daytime curfew and truancy laws, which can result in kids getting handcuffed by police, searched, and fined hundreds of dollars just for arriving at school a few minutes late. Who-hoo! ... I'm sorry, what? Kids are getting handcuffed and searched and fined hundreds of dollars -- money their families need to make rent and pay for food -- just because they're a few ticks behind schedule?
What country are we living in again?
The laws were apparently put in place to cut down on truancy and crimes near schools, but instead ended up keeping many kids out of school (and lower graduation rates). If kids saw that they were running late -- and risking fines and court fees that could climb over $800 -- they just turned around and went home, skipping the whole day of school instead. What's more, studies have shown the laws have unfairly targeted Latinos, blacks, and low-income students.
Ugh. Seriously, people, what message are we sending to our nation's youth? As one lawyer involved in the case told the Los Angeles Times, criminalizing well-meaning kids for coming late to school is "backward in every way." It's also inhumane and outrageous and just so discouraging.
Look, we all do our best to get our kids to school on time, but who among us hasn't occasionally missed a bus or swung up to the school doors a few minutes late? Certainly not me. And aside from the humiliation of an arrest and and the absurdity of the fines, making kids miss school and parents miss work (and wages) to go to court for hearings after they've been ticketed is just totally counterproductive. The whole thing boggles the mind.
But if you really want to have your heart broken, just listen to the story of one kid who's been mentioned in the press: 17-year-old high school senior Nabil Romero, whose mom couldn't drive him to school one day last year. He had to take two buses as a result, but the public transportation ran late, and he arrived at school a few minutes after first period had started. As he was walking up to school, police approached him, handcuffed him, and ticketed him. His family fought the citation, but still ended up having to pay a $350 fine. That meant the family had to cut back on groceries. Romero's response? "This was all my fault because I was not in class."
Ticketed good kids like that for circumstances beyond their control? That's not justice -- it's just totally messed up.
What do you think of the truancy laws?
Image via ATVN.org