The Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee today unanimously approved proposed changes to a truancy law that would eliminate a fine for skipping school that can reach $250.
The plan, introduced by Councilman Tony Cardenas, proposes new penalty options for a first or second violation. Offenders could either propose a plan for how to improve their attendance or perform community service, tutoring or mentoring, or attend an after-school program.
Students could be fined as much as $180 for a third strike.
The proposed ordinance would also prevent police from issuing tickets during the first hour of school to students who are within a three-block radius of their campus.
"With court fees and penalties, the exorbitant costs of truancy violations can be a whole month's worth of groceries for some families," said Cardenas, who represents Council District 6. "Curfew fines can actually deter our kids from staying in school, and that's a long-term price society can't afford."
The tickets usually force students to miss additional classroom time and work to resolve tickets in court, Cardenas said.The motion would require the LAPD to publish statistics twice a year showing how many minors were issued tickets, along with their age, ethnicity, race and gender.
The changes are supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Public Counsel Law Center, a pro bono public interest law firm.
"Truancy is a serious and growing problem that affects families across the economic spectrum citywide," Councilman Mitch Englander, of Council Distrixct 12, said. "We have to act, but we must be cautious and fair, and make sure we are not unnecessarily punishing kids and creating undue financial hardships on struggling families."
The proposal will go next to the full City Council.