7 parents arrested in truancy crackdown

A team of officials from the Juvenile Court, the sheriff’s office, the Dayton Police Department and Dayton Public Schools visited more than a dozen addresses Thursday morning and afternoon, armed with arrest warrants for 16 parents.

“I do consider this a successful day,” said Rebekkah Brewer, the supervisor of the court’s Start Right program. “We had almost 50 percent.”

The sweeps team made arrests, but also hit vacant apartments and unattended houses. At one, police didn’t find the wanted parent, but did tow that parent’s car after finding a falsified license registration sticker on it.

“A lot of our families are very transient and keeping track of them is very difficult,” Brewer said.

Start Right, started in 1996, focuses on children between kindergarten and fourth grade with excessive unexcused absences, defined by law as five days in a row, seven in a month or 12 in a school year.

“For several of these children, it far exceeds that minimum,” Brewer said.

The parents are charged with misdemeanors, such as a failure to send to school or contributing to educational neglect. They have declined to appear in Juvenile Court and ignored a mailed warning notice that would have prevented their arrests.

“They did not take that opportunity,” Brewer said.

The program’s philosophy is that, if you wait until children are of high school age to make them go to school, it’s too late. Brewer said that the program’s success rate fluctuates between 83 and 88 percent, meaning that in more than eight out of 10 cases, the truancy rate declines.

Many different issues come into play, Brewer said. Some of the adults are uneducated themselves, or think that “it’s only kindergarten.” Others have drug or alcohol problems, or are battling severe mental health problems. Some may be homeless and are more focused on finding shelter than getting the kids to school. The goal is to get them the help they need and to get the kids to school, she said.

Several of those arrested Thursday were Dayton parents. Delvin Terry, director of Dayton Public Schools’ truancy office, said he was happy with the sweeps results.

“We think that is outstanding,” Terry said. “Our whole goal is to make sure we get the children to school and get them educated.”

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