Truancy on the rise in Miami-Dade County
2/1/2012, 7:30 a.m.
Over 2,000 students skipped school in 2011 Education is a crucial part of the development of children and by law kids must attend school. But more kids are now choosing to skip classes, putting themselves at risk of getting into trouble or even dropping out all together. Last year Miami-Dade County Public Schools documented over 2,000 truant students and the number is climbing this year. Truancy is a systemic problem not just here in Miami-Dade but across the nation, said Charles Hurley, 42, chief of the Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department. It is one of the greatest contributors to juvenile delinquency. Truancy is a significant challenge for us in Miami-Dade. We have a truancy court program but that isnt the only way to approach this issue. Truancy is any intentional unauthorized absence from school. The term typically describes absences caused by students skipping school and it does not refer to a legitimate excused absence, like those related to medical conditions. While truancy is a problem in Miami-Dade the school system's police department is aggressively addressing the issue. Our police department does truancy sweeps to try and reconnect children with school, Hurley said. We do these sweeps every month. We target public transportation systems like bus depots and the metro rail. We go to the beaches, the parks and the malls as well. We will go everywhere that truants like to congregate. We dont arrest them, but we do bring them back to school.As a parent himself, Hurley warns that other parent have to make their child's education a non-negotiable in their lives.Parents have got to make their childrens education not a priority but the priority, Hurley said. If a childs health and welfare is 1 A then their education is 1 B. Education is very important because that will determine where that child goes when they become an adult.In the 2008-2009 school year, 1,476 truancy packets were processed. As of January 25th, 500 packets had been processed. Kendra Williams who has a son that has been truant said it is hard for her to keep an eye on her son as a single mother.I try to do the best for my son but since my husband passed away it seems like he doesnt want to listen to me, she said. He is coming around though. I think that he was just going through a phase in life. According to statistics compiled by Miami-Dade County Public Schools, approximately 160,000 students skip school daily because they are being bullied. And almost 30 percent of youth are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying or both. Randy Gricergrice@miamitimesonline.com