When Trying to Get Kids to School Backfires

A policy meant to keep Los Angeles kids in school is weighing down harder on low-income children. For a decade now, the city has been enforcing a tough truancy law that carries large fines. Advocates discovered that police officers were ticketing students on their way to school, to the point where some students stayed at home rather than risk getting a fine. Now the city is relaxing the ordinance.

It’s an interesting lesson to learn when examining D.C.’s dropout crisis, and whether we have any disciplinary rules that actually make it harder for kids to get to and stay in school.

Two years ago, Nabil Romero, a young Angeleno with a thin black mustache, was running late to his first period at a public high school on L.A.’s Westside.

“I live two bus rides away from my school,” he says. “The first bus ride took 45 minutes; the second one did as well. By the time I arrived [at] school, I was approached by police officers and I was told to stop. I was handcuffed, searched.”

Romero had to pay a $350 truancy fine — a lot in a single-parent home like his.

“When my mom heard the fine, she was like, ‘Oh, we’re gong to have to cut back on a lot of stuff,’ and we started cutting back on food expenses, clothes expenses, shoes,” he recalls. “And this was all my fault.”

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