Daytime Curfew Criminalizes Children, ACLU Says

It's 12 p.m. Do you know where your children are? The City of Dallas wants to make sure they are in school by instituting a daytime curfew, which could carry a $500 fine for violators.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is among the opponents of the measure and protested Monday during rallies held in Bedford and Dallas. 

The rallies came two days before a hearing in which the Dallas City Council is expected to hear what the public thinks about the daytime curfew, which would prohibit minors from being out on the streets between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday though Friday.

The proposal would expand the current nighttime curfew for minors, which is from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Sunday through Thursday and 12 a.m. to 6 a.m., Friday and Saturday.

There are exceptions to the proposed rule that would allow kids on the streets during school hours. Approved exceptions include: students who are supervised by their parents, school-approved work study programs, lunch breaks at schools that sponsor an open-campus program and absences approved by a school official.  

Students found in violation of the rule would be taken to school, or their parents if they are home schooled, the Dallas City Hall Public Information Office said. 
While Dallas city leaders push the daytime curfew as an effort to reduce juvenille crime, opponents said the move interferes with parental rights and students' civil liberties.

Tracey Hayes, a field organizer for ACLU of Texas, told the Star-Telegram Monday that the ordinance unnecessarily criminalizes children.

A group called Citizens Against the Dallas Daytime Curfew cohosted two rallies with the ACLU Monday evening to speak out against the ordinance.  One rally took place at Dallas City Hall and the other one ran concurrently at Bedford City Hall, where the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district already has a daytime curfew in place.

The Bedford ordinance prohibits children under the age of 17 from being in a public place during school hours.  The exceptions are like Dallas' proposed ordinance, and offers exemptions for children who are home schooled.  The Bedford City Council reviews the city's curfew policy every three years and recently conducted a review in light of concerns from parents of home-schooled children. 

Dallas plans to hold a public hearing on the daytime curfew issue on Wednesday and the city council is expected to take a final vote on April 22.

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