Criminalizing Kids

Published — March 1, 2012 Updated — June 16, 2015 at 9:48 am ET

L.A. kids’ daytime curfew story on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’

Other reports on truancy in Detroit, Mich. and Kern County, Calif.


National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” has aired a version of the Center for Public Integrity look into aggressive ticketing of students in Los Angeles for violating a daytime curfew. The piece on Los Angeles’ changes to this anti-truancy law was co-reported by KQED radio’s Krissy Clark.

A web package also appears on NPR’s website. In early February, NPR ran an interesting piece delving into what one school attendance agent in Detroit, Mich., found during his rounds to scout out why kids were not appearing at school. Gentle but also firm with parents — who could face prosecution — the school agent found a mother of newborn twins living temporarily in a hotel room who said she couldn’t get her other kids on the bus.

He also found a mother who said her children didn’t have proper clothing and needed glasses, and he gave her some vouchers to get both. Another mother shouts at the agent and complains about the school calling whenever her son misses a day.

In another part of the country, television news outlets have examined how police officers in Kern County, Calif., make rounds to catch truant students.

In one KGET report, officers are gruff, confronting parents and yelling at kids to get dressed and get to school. In a piece by KBAK, officers are less aggressive, but tension erupts between a father and a daughter when an officer arrives at a family’s home. Officers warn students that their parents can be fined and kids can be incarcerated.

In December, the Center for Public Integrity took an in-depth look into school expulsions in Kern County because state data shows that schools there expel more kids than anywhere else in California.

Some high schools in Kern expelled well over 100 students each in 2010-11, though the Center’s own data analysis revealed that most expulsions were based on infractions that do not require mandatory removal.

Some Kern parents complained that not enough counseling was offered before schools resorted to removing students. Expelled students can attend classes in alternative settings, and are allowed to return to regular school once they complete their punishment. But there is no systematic tracking to see what ultimately happens to these students.

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