Truancy sweep - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Truancy sweep

Rich Van Wyk/Education Reporter

Indianapolis, Oct. 27 - It wasn't at all difficult finding kids running the streets when they should be in school. City and school police are trying to control what they call a truancy epidemic.

Some students don't know the meaning of the word. "Truancy, what's that?"

It's more serious than cutting school. Thursday's effort involved dozens of officers.

Indianapolis Police Chief Michael Spears says it is about cutting crime. "We have a lot of young people involved in crime that's violent. We want to do every thing we can to reduce that."

Instead of targeting specific neighborhoods, this year police truancy sweeps cover the entire Indianapolis Public School district and involve numerous agencies.

Students meet with police, school social workers, probation officers and even a truancy judge.

Most have been in trouble before with juvenile records and terrible school attendance.

IPS Police Officer Jamie Taylor says, "Weeks, sometimes months, they haven't been in school."

Social worker Tracyey Kappel says the parents and guardians aren't surprised to get a phone call. "Grandma's had enough. She's refusing to pick up her grandson."

Booker Taylor is not happy about leaving work to pick up his eighth grader. "I'm angry with my son. He knows he's supposed to be in school instead of on these bad streets. I'm angry with him."

Truancy Commissioner Kelly Rota-Autry counseled students and parents, attempting to scare them back to school. "Some of these kids may be getting the message this time. That's my hope, some of these kids get the message."

Truancy laws are so weak, officials say there is little else they can do.

That may change. The courts are looking at new ways of holding parents accountable in the most severe truancy cases, having families supervised by child welfare and perhaps even moving the child to a foster care family.

Failure to ensure an education is a class B misdemeanor. It is cumbersome to prosecute in a crowded court and jail system.

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