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Lessons We Can Learn From Frankford High School Truancy Incident!

Hanukkah 2009 is now history, Santa and the reindeer have landed on our roofs,  Kwanzaa began Saturday and the Three Kings will arrive next week. These celebrations allow us time to reflect  on the true  meaning and intent of these special events and to better ourselves and our world. I would like to share some reflections regarding the events of October 29th at Frankford High School  and what  meaning  we can find in this event.

We go to school to learn. Many question what our children are learning and how well they are learning it. But off to school they go. Rules and laws should be in place to protect us. But sometimes things go terribly wrong. PA law mandates that children must attend school between the ages of 8 and 17. However, in Philadelphia, the starting age for mandatory school attendance is 6 years old. There are those, for whatever reason(s), do not regularly attend school and are labeled as truant. The PA Department of Education defines truancy as any unexcused absence from school. Truancy has been cited as a BIG problem in the School District of Philadelphia schools. To address truancy in its schools, the School District of Philadelphia has implemented a plan called ATIPS (Attendance and Truancy Intervention and Prevention Services). If you read the details of this plan, “police stop students who are on public streets or in/around public areas between the hours of 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM every (non-holiday) weekday during the regular school year. The officer first asks for documentation and checks the student’s identification to confirm the student’s name and assigned school. If the student does not have documentation, s/he is escorted to their home school, the nearest age-appropriate school or to one of the district’s Truancy Support Centers.” So the goal appears to be to get students to their schools to learn.

Here’s the scoop regarding the outcome of the investigation! Stopped one block from school, this student admitted he “mouthed off” to the officers by telling them he was already late and continued to walk the one block to school instead of getting in the van that would have taken him to school anyway. Lesson #1 – Let us be respectful in our dealings with each other – old to young – young to old and everyone in between. Our encounters should be positive experiences.

The officers followed the student to school. Once he entered the school, “the student was held down by one officer while another officer beat him.” Lesson 2 – Those with authority can never, ever abuse it. Power doesn’t give any person or country rights over another. The more power you have, the more restrained you must be when using it.

A Frankford High School staff member witnessed this incident and he wrote an email to the School Superintendent asking that the truth be heard. It has been. Lesson #3 – We must act with courage whenever the rights of one of us have been violated. It takes great risk to stand up to right a wrong but exercising our courage will help us do that.

Lastly, all involved in an incident like this are victims. The innocent deserve justice – the guilty need our understanding and help, too! Lesson #4 – we need to be sure those that work with our young people are well-trained and have the necessary skills to deal with the daily stresses and challenges they face.

Learning lessons from such events can help to prevent them in the future. These are the lessons we want to teach our young.