D.C. Council mulls jailing parents for children’s truancy

Dick Uliano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – As the District continues to battle one of the highest truancy rates in the country, D.C. Councilmembers are considering taking a tougher approach to the growing epidemic.

Councilmember David Catania, at-large Independent, is proposing up to five days in jail for parents of habitual truants, which account for more than 10 percent of students in the District.

“We as a community have no recourse but to have consequences to those adults who would have these children go uneducated,” he says. “I believe that is child abuse.”

Research shows that students who regularly skip classes are eight times more likely to enter the criminal justice system, he says.

But Councilmember Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, is concerned that jailing parents would only lead to other problems.

“It doesn’t work,” he says. “Who is going to take care of the kids while they’re locked up?”

Four students with experience skipping school also contributed their views during a council hearing Tuesday. They agree with Barry.

“I don’t think [the parents] should be arrested because … it just would make the situation worse,” 18-year-old Orlando Armstead says.

The D.C. Council has not set a vote on the truancy bill.

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