The decided to delay action on a stronger daytime curfew ordinance coming out of the city of San Ramon until several questions and issues were resolved.
The proposed ordinance from San Ramon is in conjunction with the Contra Costa District Attorney in an effort to reduce student truancy across the county. The new push would put more teeth in what is currently on the books making it a police matter, enforced by fines.
Instead of taking truants under the age of 18 back to the school, the police could detain them. Additionally, fines would be assessed by the parents based on the number of times truant, starting at $100 for the first offense and going up to $500 for the third and any subsequent offenses.
The daytime curfew would be in affect between during the hours when the perspective schools are in session. There are a number of exceptions to the ordinance such as students in private schools, those accompanied by a guardian, various emergencies, and student employment.
School board supports the issue of reduced truancy, but questions the ordinance
Though the SRVUSD Board of Education expressed its support for the larger issue of lowering truancy and getting kids in school, it was far from supportive of the ordinance presented, with member Paul Gardner being the most outspoken.
"This to me is a solution in search of a problem. ... Quite frankly, I'll never be in support of this," he said.
Under the current daytime curfew ordinance, truants found can be picked up and taken to their school and that school directs punishment. Under the new ordinance, a fine is charged to the minor or the parent or guardian of that minor that would not exceed $100 for the first offence. The second violation within the year would not exceed $200. Any violation there after, within the same year, would not exceed $500 each.
"And what do we do about the low income people who cannot pay $500, let alone $200," Gardner said. "It's going to take a lot for me to support something like this."
The other board members didn't express as much disapproval of the curfew ordinance as Gardner, but they weren't supportive of it as it stood Tuesday night.
Is truancy a problem in the district?
Questions arose about students who would be out of school for legitimate reasons and might end up getting harassed unfoundedly. There were also questions about the numbers stated in the ordinance and if SRVUSD actually had a rampant truancy problem.
In a letter to the district from the Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson, he stated that the truancy rate for the SRVUSD was 20.96 percent for the 2010-11 school year. That's means 6,071 students of the 28,692 enrolled had three or more days with unexcused absences or tardies. Additionally, the San Ramon City Council staff report states that in a study conducted by the District Attorney's office and the California Department of Education, 60 percent of juvenile crime in Contra Costa County occurs between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the weekdays.
The actual truancy rate in the SRVUSD was question.
"Is truancy really an issue in our district?" Darren Day, San Ramon Valley Education President asked council. He expressed concern of students who may have been tardy just a few times, thus being considered truant. However, he still was skeptical of that number. "I drive to the 35 sties and I just don't see kids out and about. ... We don't want to give (students) the perception of a police state," he said.
Board Clerk Rachel Hurd, though she said the intention of the ordinance was good, also expressed her concern in potential harassment of innocent students by police.
"From a developmental standpoint (of a teenager), we don't want them always being harassed," she said.
Board member Denise Jennison, who was absent from the meeting, had her comments read into the record by Board President Greg Marvel. "This board member was unaware of a problem in our community (of truancy)," her comments read. "I want to know the extent of the problem and if it exists (before taking action)."
The board unanimously voted to delay any action on this matter until its concerns were addressed. "I don't think we have this problem here," Marvel said. "We will delay for more info."
Steve Enoch, SRVUSD's superintendent, , said that the district is one that actually encourages students to be out and about by providing more flexibility in their daily schedules, for example Venture students and those in the iQuest program. These non-traditional school programs could provide a lot of unfounded questioning from police.
Strong enforcement of truancy would reduce daytime crime, they say
From San Ramon's standpoint, both the city and the police department, it's an action to reduce daytime crime in the city. The ordinance reads that the city "has a compelling interest in reducing the rate of juvenile crime and victimization, understanding that minors are particular vulnerable to violence and to the pressure to participate in criminal activity due to their limited ability to make critical decisions in an informed and mature manger."
The ordinance goes on to say that "truancy also often leads to vandalism, petty theft, daytime burglaries, and other criminal activity. Truants often tend to loiter in and about public places."
The town of Danville may also be looking into a similar ordinance and has had some preliminary contact with the district on this issue, Enoch said.
San Ramon council also delayed
The issue also came in front of . Though council believed the ordinance was a good idea, action was also delayed to see where the SRVUSD board stood on the issue.
In public comment at the San Ramon council meeting, Erica Porter, who has two sons in private school, said she was concerned about the unintended consequences of the policy change.
"I don't want my sons to be fearful they're going to be approached by a police officer when they're around town on one of their days off," Porter said. "I don't think there needs to be anymore regulation."
Stick with Danville and San Ramon Patch as we follow the daytime curfew issue.