Department of Public Safety planning study of truancy among Indianapolis teenagers

Truancy seen as gateway to life of crime

INDIANAPOLIS - The Department of Public Safety will launch a major study of truancy problems as part of an initiative to cut crime in its earliest stages.

Public safety officials regard truancy as the gateway portal to a life of crime for kids who don't go to school.

A child with 10 or more unexcused absences is considered truant in the state of Indiana, and studies show that children who don't go to school are at high risk for engaging in a life of criminal activity.

In the past year, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office has taken 126 parents to court for failing to ensure the education of their children. Parents who successfully complete a professional mentoring program will have the charges dropped.

Chief of police at Indianapolis Public Schools Steve Garner said there is no way for school police to ensure attendance for students between the ages of 13 to 17.

"Occasionally, we'll send a social worker out when a child is habitually truant and try to influence that in some fashion," Garner said. "Occasionally, the social worker will call for the services of one of my officers. We'll send them out, but there's nothing we can do to force that child to get up and go to school, from a legal standpoint."

Garner said there's no formal policy within Marion County or the state that can compel someone above the age of 13 to attend school, but he can see why having such a policy would be of interest to public safety officials.

"When you interview major felons who are doing prison terms, they'll tell you that they started out with not attending school. I see that connection," he said.

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