Against the Wind: The Truancy Train

Please, back up the Truancy Train for just a moment. Our mayor, Larry Morrissey, and School District Superintendent, Dennis Thompson, are on the television enlisting our help in policing Rockford’s school students. They have established a “Hot Line” so we citizens can report those we see playing hooky. They list several negative outcomes for the city that may result from so much hooky playing.

The results they list include: possible effects on future federal funding; poor workforce example for prospective new businesses and existing business expansion; lowering the intelligence and effectiveness of our most important natural resource (our young); and the likelihood of increased criminal activity. These are all real possibilities. The problem of such high truancy should be a concern for all of us involved in the business enterprise known as Rockford.

However, I can’t help but believe that as members of this enterprise, Rockford, we citizens might better use our policing talents in policing Rockford’s schools to find out why so many of our young people find skipping school more appealing than attending school. My experience has shown that finding the cause of a problem solves it more efficiently than treating the symptoms caused by that problem.

Rockford has a long history of problems understanding “school logic.” There was the 20-some-year battle with court-ordered desegregation that left deep scars on the city schools—placed all over the city. All are connected by less than logical bus routes. To top it all off, there are so many budget problems and programs being cut, the incentive to continue receiving education has become somewhat convoluted.

Wouldn’t it be ironic to find the cost of establishing the truancy hot line would have saved an after-school activity that might have kept kids interested in school? Is the ability to enjoy learning diminished by long and arduous bus rides? These are the questions we should be asking as part of our policing activities.

Bottom line, truancy is a symptom of a problem and not necessarily the problem. For the love of our children, let us citizens find the problem by asking students for their input. Please, this time let us move to solve the problem and not just police the symptoms. It is time to work with Rockford’s students to solve this matter and not place blame in a lame attempt to satisfy our inability to resolve the matter.

David Kellogg is a resident of Rockford.

From the July 5-11, 2006, issue

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