Dallas Moves to Extend Truancy Laws

Tougher laws could reduce juvenile crime.

Anyone with children, or anyone put out with the high rate of juvenile crime in the city, needs to be aware that the City Council has moved to consider on Monday an extension to its juvenile curfew law. Curfew hours would range from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m Monday through Friday under the ordinance.

Public hearings on the ordinance expansion are scheduled, with a final council vote after the April 22 public hearing.

The decision is particularly noteworthy as the juvenile crime rate in Dallas has risen steadily since 2002. Truancy has been found to be correlated to substance abuse, gang activity and involvement in criminal activities such as burglary, auto theft and vandalism. A more tragic and long-lasting correlation has also been noticed: frequently truant teenagers grow up to be adults who are much more likely than those who had good attendance to have poorer health – mentally and physically – lower paying jobs, more reliance on welfare support, children of their own who exhibit problem behaviors and an increased likelihood of incarceration.

Therefore, anyone concerned about the high rate of crime should attend this meeting. Doubtless there are other measures and policies that can decrease the crime rate and spread social welfare – but there are few downsides to keeping kids in school, and plenty of reason to think that correlation has at least some elements of causality.

This call to action includes you too, homeschoolers. Families of this educational persuasion traditionally oppose laws aimed at keeping restrictions on youngsters, citing the argument that their children aren’t in school all day and the laws shouldn’t apply to them.

Why would their kids be roaming the streets on school days though? And why would they want to prevent other kids from benefiting from public education and not turning into miscreants? Surely after a measure so beneficial to the public welfare has been passed, homeschooling families can devote their energy to looking for ways to create a structured and reliable exception for their children.

Truancy laws, strictly enforced, reduce crime and keep children in schools where they belong. Kids need to be in school learning and being constructively involved during the day. Dallas has the chance to make a change in its unconscionable crime rate, and the best place for it to start is in childhood, before kids have a chance to turn into violent adults.

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