San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon today announced a pilot program designed to target and help chronically truant students at risk of falling into a life of crime.
The program, a partnership between the district attorney’s office, the San Francisco Unified School District and the YMCA, is targeting about 30 ninth-grade students at Burton High School in the city’s Portola neighborhood.
The students are receiving individual case management provided at the campus by the YMCA’s Truancy Assessment and Resource Center. Since its August launch, students in the program have attended an average of 23 percent more school days than they did the year before.
Gascon and other officials noted the link between truancy and criminal activity. Burton High School principal Bill Kappenhagen cited a report that found that between 2003 and 2007, 94 percent of San Francisco’s homicide victims under the age of 25 were high school dropouts.
“There’s a very straight line between being a truant, being a high school dropout and eventually ending up in prison or even dead,” Gascon said.
The students were selected using the school district’s new data system that identifies early warning indicators of truancy and notifies parents immediately when their children miss school, district Superintendent Carlos Garcia said.
“We can’t educate kids unless they come to school, it’s not that complicated,” Garcia said.
The district attorney’s office provided $30,000 for TARC to offer its services at the campus for the semester-long program.
“If you look at the cost of incarceration … this becomes a very inexpensive program,” Gascon said. “I don’t see this as a cost, I see it as an investment.”
Mainor Carias-Chiri, one of the students in the program, said middle school “felt more like a prison to me than school.”
However, the program “connects me with resources … and they help me understand how I can just get some hobbies and stop missing school.”
Gascon said he hopes the program “can create a model that we can take throughout the school district.”
Families in need of attendance-related assistance for their students are encouraged to contact SFUSD’s student support services department at (415) 695-5543.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News