County struggling to keep kids in school and off the street

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Westwood Elementary used to have one of the worst truancy problems in the county. Now it and ten other schools have a truancy officer on staff.

But parents in this neighborhood say it’s not enough, because they see too many kids on the street when they should be in school.

Marsha Sullivan says kids are skipping class and causing problems.

“They break into people’s homes,” she said.

Sullivan lives across the street from Westwood Elementary where her granddaughter is a student. She calls it a good school, but says teachers struggle to keep kids in the classroom.

“I actually see elementary children running from the school. I’ll see teachers and different ones chasing them,” she said.

City Councilman Harold Collins said, “Based on data we received this summer, truancy is on the uptick.”

Collins is also part of the county’s Truancy Control Program. He told WREG it’s hard to crack down on kids not being in school when some parents don’t even register their children until after Labor Day!=.

“We sent a letter home to parents and students encouraging them to get registered, and get their kids into school,” he said.

Sullivan says there are too many kids on the corner near her home, and she says it’s because they don’t have anything to do.

“They need something over here in this neighborhood for the children,” she said.

And according to Collins, there are numbers to back up this problem.

“Twenty-five percent of most juvenile crime is committed during school hours. When they are not in school, they are not being supervised by an adult,” he said.

The consequences are tough for parents who don’t make sure their kids are in school. They can serve any where from ten days to 11months in jail, but it still isn’t enough to get every kid to report to class.

Collins said, “We know that every year we do the same thing and expect a different result. Something is wrong with us.”

He wants the school board to consider having kids stay in school later in the day so they remain under adult supervision until their parents get home.

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