“Harris also championed state legislation under which parents whose children were found to be habitually truant in elementary school could be prosecuted, despite concerns that it would disproportionately affect low-income people of color.” ~ Lara Bazelon
In 2010, Harris introduced measures fining parents of truant elementary school aged children up to $2000 and potential jail time for failing to get their kids to class. Governor Schwarzenegger signed it in September. This set liberal hair on fire. In 2011, Harris addressed it directly in her inaugural:
“We know chronic truancy leads to dropping out, which dramatically increases the odds that a young person will become either a perpetrator or a victim of crime. Folks, it is time to get serious about the problem of chronic truancy in California. Last year we had 600,000 truant students in our elementary schools alone, which roughly matches the number of inmates in our state prisons. Is it a coincidence? Of course not.
And as unacceptable as this problem is — I know we can fix it. In San Francisco, we threatened the parents of truants with prosecution, and truancy dropped 32 percent. So, we are putting parents on notice. If you fail in your responsibility to your kids, we are going to work to make sure you face the full force and consequences of the law.”
This measure was supported by the California Federation of Teachers. Most parents, in all likelihood, took their child’s classroom attendance more seriously, and those subject to the most punitive aspects of this ordinance — most likely — had some deeper issues at home that were affecting their child’s education. It would obviously have to be measured case-by-case. But to simply react with scorn to an effort to do something about a problem that has such a profound effect of children’s futures — especially children of color — is just shortsighted and small-minded.