MEMPHIS, Tenn. — At least 2,500 children in Shelby County aren’t going to school, and that’s just the kids the district knows about.
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said the numbers are troubling, especially when juvenile crime is on the rise.
Latoya Howard raises her four kids all on her own in Frayser. From 6 to 14 years old, all go to Shelby County Schools.
“They do. Every last one of them,” she said. “For education. For success.”
Howard said she’s outraged and shocked thousands of kids aren’t enrolled in school in Shelby County.
“They are going to go the other way regardless. You have to guide your kids regardless. You are their first teacher,” Howard said.
Hopson said principals have been trying to track down the kids by calling their parents, but haven’t had much luck.
Memphis police found one of them, a 15-year-old boy who was one of hundreds of teens accused of brutally beating four people at a Kroger. His mother never enrolled him in school this year.
“What you saw with the incident at Kroger, if kids are not in school, they are much more likely to get in trouble or do things they don’t have any business doing,” Hopson said.
More than 3,100 juveniles have been arrested and 2,000 have been victims of crime so far this year.
“To be truant and out on the streets doing anything I would be worried,” parent Darlene Pipes said.
Parents said until these kids are going to school, crime will continue to rise.
“These kids are wild. They are loose. They mislead, and they can’t be loved. Look at what they are doing out here!” Howard said.
Hopson said parents with truant kids will get a letter in the mail stating if they don’t send their kids to school, they could face criminal charges.
Hopson also said he’s working with the District Attorney’s and Shelby County Sheriff’s offices to create and expand programs that tackle truancy.