San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris announced today she’s expanding her office’s anti-truancy initiative from elementary and middle school students to high school.

Harris cited the success of the program, saying elementary and middle school truancy rates dropped an average of 20 percent in the past year.

The office works with the San Francisco Unified School District using an approach that includes phone calls and letters to students’ homes, followed by mediation sessions with parents if unexcused absences continue.

Chronic truancy can bring prosecution, with possible fines and jail time for parents. Harris’ first prosecutions of parents began last year.

Harris said the effort was important because of links between truancy and youth becoming both perpetrators and victims of crime, and because of the lost “potential … to participate in the workforce.”

School District Superintendent Carols Garcia called the collaboration “a dream come true for a superintendent.”

“We nag ’em to death,” he said of the truants.

“But sometimes, no matter what we try in schools, we can’t do it ourselves,” Garcia said.

The second facet of Harris’ truancy program expansion involves the addition of a Department of Child Protective Services caseworker to assess and offer support for students and families in truancy court.

Harris said the goal of the initiative was not to punish or remove children from their parents.

“There’s only one goal here,” she said. “Get that child in school.”

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