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Sunday 8th of December 2019

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California Considers Decriminalizing Truancy

Friday 30th of August 2019 | North America, United States
The Chronicle of Social Change
News

The California State Senate will vote Friday on a measure that seeks to decriminalize truancy and limit the power of probation departments to work with youth who have not been charged with any crime through “voluntary probation” programs.

Assembly Bill (AB) 901 would prohibit judges in juvenile court from prosecuting youths for truancy in many cases. Instead counties in California would have to seek other alternatives for youth with attendance issues. That includes referring juveniles to community-based diversion programs before issuing a notice to appear in juvenile court. The bill would also prevent probation departments from working with youth with academic issues through so-called “voluntary probation” programs.

“Every youth deserves the opportunity to thrive and grow up into adulthood,” said Gipson at a hearing for the bill in May. “My bill intends to reduce the likelihood for youth to end up in juvenile justice systems therefore reducing the likelihood that they will be placed in a juvenile facility.”

Under current state law, minors are considered “habitually truant” if they miss three or more days in one school year and a school employee has made at least one attempt to intervene with a parent or guardian. If a student’s behavior does not change, the student may be referred to a county-run school attendance board, a county probation department or a mediation program run by the district attorney’s office. From there, the student can end up under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court and on probation supervision.

According to 2017-2018 data from the California Department of Education (CDE), 11.1 percent of students in the state are defined as chronically absent, or having missed 10 percent or more days of school for any reason. Chronic absenteeism disproportionately affects youth of color in the state. In 2017-18, African-American students in California had a chronic absenteeism rate of 20.1 percent, Native students had a rate of 21 percent, Pacific Islander students were at 17.4 percent, and Latino students were absent at a rate of 12 percent, compared with white students at 9.7 percent. According to an accompanying CDE report, listed reasons for chronic absenteeism included a “lack of social and educational support services, language barriers, disabilities, bullying, abuse or neglect” as well as “housing instability, lack of access to stable transportation, [and] low parent involvement.”

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

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    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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