When you see a teen handcuffed and headed to the police station, your mind naturally begins to swirl with all the crimes he could have possibly committed. Did he steal? Beat someone up? Vandalize something? It's doubtful that you imagined he was headed to a cell for being tardy for school. But that is exactly what is happening to kids in Texas. Teens are being arrested for truancy.
"I'm getting treated like a criminal," said one 16-year-old, who was sent to court after amassing four absences after her grandmother's death. That is just one of many examples that prompted a group of students to file a federal civil rights complaint that accuses the school district of cruel and unusual punishment.
As it stands, kids as young as 12 can be cuffed, arrested, and fined for being late or missing class. And once they turn 17, they can actually be put in jail if they neglect to pay up. Outrageous, don't you think? While I am sure officials tout that it's their way of keeping kids in line, it's also big business. The special truancy court prosecuted more than 36,000 cases and collected $2.9 million in fines last year. That's a lot of money for those cash-strapped communities.
But that doesn't make it right. Clearly the focus is on the wrong thing here. Are they putting just as much time and effort toward combating student drug use, theft, assault, creating pregnancy prevention programs, and the many other things we parents put far above a few tardies? This just seems like a ridiculous misuse of police time and effort.
Do you think arresting a kid for truancy is going overboard?
Image via Kevin Krejci/Flickr