County supervisors postpone truancy rules



Alarmed by an outpouring of angry parents, San Luis Obispo County supervisors decided to delay a final decision on new rules that would allow local law enforcement agents to crack down on truant school children.

County supervisors had almost no qualms with the ordinance when it came to them for a first reading on Dec. 13, 2011. But no one was really speaking out against the proposed ordinance, then.

If passed, the truancy ordinance would give police the authority to detain and cite children found on the street during school hours, minus a few exceptions. The ordinance would also set the groundwork to bring offenders to Juvenile Informal Traffic Court.

On Jan. 17, it appeared that details of the truancy ordinance hadn’t been run past parents who home school their children. And dozens of parents turned out in force to the Board of Supervisors’ meeting with kids in tow. They were overwhelmingly against the ordinance. Many parents worried their children could be bothered by police or even unnecessarily detained, and several equated the ordinance to an attack on their personal freedoms.

“If we were a police state, a curfew would make sense,” said Mikhail Gannage, a parent and home schooler.

Most people in the audience had brought children, who sat quietly in the room reading and coloring. One parent, Christina Aguirre, even broke into tears, saying Americans fighting in wars ranging from the Revolutionary War to both campaigns in Iraq have shed blood to protect freedom:

“I beg you, with the power that’s in your hands, to consider all of our freedom.” Chief Probation Officer Jim Salio, County Superintendent of Schools Julian Crocker, and Sheriff Ian Parkinson stressed that the truancy rules would exclude punishment for home-schooled children. However, Salio and Crocker said they hadn’t reached out specifically to such parents. County supervisors unanimously decided to put off a final decision until the parents in the audience and others from the community were given a chance to weigh in on the specific language.

“It means a lot to see this much parent involvement and that you care about your kids and what they’re doing and what they’re not doing,” Supervisor Paul Teixeira told the crowd. “But I think that we’re looking at the wrong people; these aren’t the people that we’re going to have problems with. We have problems with the kids that their parents don’t care. They don’t show up for the meetings; they don’t show up for the hearings; they don’t show up for their school activities.”

Salio said he planned to hold a meeting with parents to discuss the ordinance before bringing it back for approval.

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