State Senate bill boosts local efforts to fight truancy

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The state Senate buoyed San Francisco’s efforts to crack down on truant kids after passing a bill that punishes parents whose elementary school children are chronically truant.

The bill — authored by Sen. Mark Leno — was also sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who over the summer started prosecuting truant students.

The bill also authorizes local jurisdictions to establish a deferred entry of judgment program to mandate family services and court supervision, in lieu of a fine or imprisonment, to encourage families to get their young children back in school.

“Unless we start holding everyone accountable, too many of our young children end up falling behind, dropping out, and learning more from the streets than the classroom,” Harris said. “Combating chronic elementary school truancy is just a smart approach to reducing crime.”

Harris takes parents of chronically truant children to a Truancy Court that combines close court monitoring with tailored family services. In the last two years, the number of habitual and chronic truants in elementary school in San Francisco has decreased by 33 percent, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

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