Our Views: Cracking down on area truancy

Look behind the crime statistics in any major city in America, and you’re likely to find that a lot of young dropouts are committing a sizeable number of the offenses.

That’s why we applaud the efforts of East Baton Rouge Parish officials in fighting truancy — the chronic absence of children from school.

In commenting on the recent arrest of eight Baton Rouge mothers of the parish’s worst truants, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III underscored the connection between school attendance and the criminal justice system: “When the child is not in school, obviously he can’t learn, and if he can’t learn, he’s not going to be able to get a job, and if he can’t get a job, he’s going to see me and some judge eventually, and that’s what we want to try to avoid.”

Ten arrest warrants were issued for mothers of the parish’s worst truants, and eight arrests were made. The arrest warrants were issued only for the mothers because there were no men’s names listed on any of the children’s school records. The chronic absence of fathers within the families of so many troubled young people is a big challenge in itself.

Government can do only so much in addressing such sad realities, but we’re glad that East Baton Rouge Parish officials are using a mix of strategies to help get families on the right track concerning truancy violations. A truancy center operated by the city-parish, the East Baton Rouge Parish public school system and local law enforcement officials offers counseling and other services to truants and their families. The mothers were arrested after repeated attempts to involve them in the center’s outreach efforts proved unsuccessful, said center director Roxson Welch.

We hope the center’s efforts to curb truancy meet success. Such progress could create a model for other communities to follow.