D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has unveiled a plan to deal with truancy and absenteeism and put in place extra severe penalties for center schoolers caught with medicine or weapons on college grounds.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has unveiled a plan to deal with truancy and absenteeism and put in place extra severe penalties for center schoolers caught with medicine or weapons on college grounds.

The proposal, referred to as the “Utilizing Partnerships, Local Interventions for Truancy and Safety Amendment Act of 2024,” addresses the town’s strategy to accountability and intervention.

The plan, which is topic to the D.C. Council’s approval, comes as faculties districts throughout the area grapple with persistent absenteeism and truancy. Students who miss 10% or extra of college days in an educational yr, with or with out an excuse, are thought-about chronically absent. Truancy applies to youngsters who miss college with out an excuse.

“We don’t have to have conversations about prolonged days or prolonged years,” stated Paul Kihn, the town’s deputy mayor for schooling. “We want our college students to be in faculties, the place they’re secure and the place they’re studying.”

The laws calls on the town’s Department of Human Services to intervene earlier than college students and households are referred both to court docket or the town’s Child and Family Services Agency. Sometimes college students miss college due to a scarcity of housing or meals safety, and Bowser’s workplace anticipates that DHS can handle these obstacles.

If a scholar remains to be absent after that intervention, the court docket can be required to take motion.

Laura Green Zeilinger, the town’s DHS director, stated a group inside the company will probably be created to do the preliminary evaluation of a household’s wants, however received’t essentially be managing these instances on a long-term foundation. The company may even broaden its groups for different applications to deal with what it expects to be rising calls for, Zeilinger stated.

Students who’re 5 to 13 years outdated will probably be referred to DHS once they attain 10 unexcused absences, Kihn stated, as will 14 to 17-year-old college students who attain 15 unexcused absences.

Once the youthful group reaches 20 unexcused absences, college students could have instances referred to the CFSA for an investigation into instructional neglect, Kihn stated.

After 25 unexcused absences, older college students could have their instances referred to the Office of the Attorney General.

When the OAG will get the referral, it’s now required to take motion. It can require participation in a program for truant college students, mandate a household group convention with DHS or refer the scholar to court docket by way of a father or mother participation order.

Currently, when instances are referred to both court docket or the OAG, Kihn stated “nothing occurs. And so this laws is disallowing that.”

“What we’re making an attempt to do right here is strengthen the place we see gaps within the system proper now,” Kihn stated at a briefing with reporters this week.

In a press release, a spokesman for Attorney General Brian Schwalb stated the workplace obtained the proposed laws Wednesday morning and remains to be reviewing it.

To handle accountability, Bowser’s proposal would restrict diversion applications for college kids charged with a harmful crime whereas armed or having a knife, pistol, firearm or imitation firearm.

The OAG spokesman stated final yr, the workplace diverted 15 instances of violent crime out of 751.

The proposed plans would additionally slender the scope of younger folks charged with violent crimes who’re eligible for plea agreements.

If a baby is charged with a violent crime, the invoice would require dad and mom or guardians to take part in a required household group convention and rehabilitative companies with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

“We haven’t shifted our feeling on diversion in any respect,” stated Lindsey Appiah, deputy mayor for public security and justice. “We consider in diversion. We consider that it’s applicable for sure younger folks, however we’re seeing a rise in younger people who find themselves concerned in additional severe crime, and harmful, violent crime and gun crime in our metropolis.”

Eduardo Ferrer, coverage director at Georgetown’s Juvenile Justice Initiative, stated he has issues “concerning the mayor’s makes an attempt to restrict the discretion of the Office of the Attorney General. I don’t assume that’s applicable, I don’t assume that will probably be productive.”

Mayor Bowser, at a information convention Wednesday, stated the town will not be “proud of younger individuals who aren’t being held accountable. We’re additionally not proud of the extent of transparency round what occurs to them.”

Some parts of the proposed laws create stricter penalties for college kids of sure ages. Middle college leaders can now droop college students for medicine, weapons and sexual harassment. The present coverage, Kihn stated, “successfully treats elementary faculties and center faculties in precisely the identical approach, after which treats excessive faculties in another way.”

“Our aim is that each scholar is in class day-after-day,” Ferrer stated. “So as we’re making progress, or hopefully making progress on the persistent absentee items of the invoice by involving DHS earlier, we shouldn’t be taking steps backwards on our strategy to highschool self-discipline.”

The proposal additionally creates a faculty campus choice as a substitute for suspension, Bowser’s workplace stated.

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