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.
We attended the morning Truancy Workshop recently held at Frankford High School. While we no longer have school age children ourselves, our schools need all citizens to care about our young people and insure that they receive an education that prepares them to reach their goals and dreams. After welcoming us, Ms. Patricia O. Green, Parent and Community Ombudsman, explained that her position was created in 2008 as a point of contact for parents.
Patricia O. Green, Parent and Community Ombudsman, Frankford High School
Ms. Green serves as a parent advocate and is available to help parents with any concerns or help that they might need. Much of her time is spent regarding truancy issues as, on any given day, 20% of students are not in school. Ms. Green is also responsible for community outreach – to churches, businesses and community groups to explain the opportunities available at Frankford High School. But Ms. Green’s real desire is to help parents and students before real problems develop. Ms. Green works very closely with the Student Advisors, too. One of the parents at the workshop explained that she had tried to get help for an older son who was cutting school but was unsuccessful. Once there was serious trouble, then doors opened to help the family. But she is determined that things won’t get that far with her second son and she has found that help in Ms. Green. The School District’s policy regarding truancy was explained. An absence note is required for any day a student is absent from school. It is very important that these absent notes are given to the student’s Advisor upon their return to school. If not, this absence can be recorded as being “unexcused”. Three (3) “unexcused” absences mean a student is “truant”. Ms. Green asked that parents contact the school whenever there are family concerns or situations that affect the student’s attendance or their ability to concentrate on their studies. Help and support is available. Ms. Green can be reached at 215.537.2519, ext. 1343. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We wish you much success, Ms. Green!
The School District is actively dealing with the issue of truancy and taking steps to enforce compliance with state laws mandating attendance at school. Just today, the Daily News reported on an investigation currently underway regarding a Frankford High School student and his encounter with truancy officers (not those specifically assigned to Frankford High School) . After reading this article, what do you think?
I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I am a retired teacher. I am still an active mother although my son is now grown. If children aren’t in school, they can’t learn. If they can’t learn, there is not much the future holds for them. Figures show that at least 20% of school-age eligible children never show up to learn! (We are not talking about legitimate absences accompanied by a parental note to explain a child’s illness or family emergency. We are talking about choosing not to go to school.) I can’t help but wonder where the parents are, are they aware of this? Who is asking about a child’s day? Frankford High School is hosting a workshop on Thursday, October 29th, with a choice of convenient meeting times – either 10:00 AM or 6:30 PM. The school wants to address this issue by explaining the process that begins if your child has unexcused absences. But no one wants it to come to that. Patricia O. Green, the Parent and Community Ombudsman, wants to do more by offering parents resources to help and improve their child’s grades. Our schools want your child to succeed. But you need to make the time – isn’t your child and their future worth that? Please plan to attend – I know I will and I hope to see you there!