Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'll be on Dore Frances' "Family Solutions Today" radio show 8/30

Dore Frances has a live radio talk show called "Family Solutions Today". I'll be her guest Monday, August 30 at 12 noon PST.

You can listen live (call-in to talk) or download from iTunes later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Part 2: Troubled Teen and Truancy

My previous post reviewed a situation with a woman's son. He's 15, had been running away from home, absent for up to 14 days at a time.

She contacted the school, let them know about the situation and asked for advice. Here are a series of edited emails so you can view how the schools approach truancy and what steps parents should take to protect themselves. Please note this is in California and terminology may be different if you're in another location. Terms of note include:

SARB = School Attendance Review Board
SRO = School Resource Officer

"From: [Mom]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:45 AM
To: [xxx High School]
Subject: URGENT - my son

Hi [Vice Principal at High School],

We have not seen [my son] (nor have we heard from him), since last Fri April 30th... we have reported him missing/runaway.

I understand [my son] was at school yesterday Wed May 5th.

I have left a msg at the school office, that if there is any sign of [my son] at school today/Thur, I would like to be contacted ASAP -- as I am trying to have SRO's come talk to him ("if the stars line up right" - kind of a miracle if it happens, which I'm literally praying for!)

The other part of this is that after my meeting this morning, I would like to come to the high school close to 1:00-ish pm today/Thur to see if he is around, and maybe talk with you if you're available.

Thank you very much - each one of you!!
From: [SRO]
To: [Mom]; and [Vice Principal High School]
Sent: Thu, May 6, 2010 1:02:31 PM
Subject: RE: URGENT - [my son]


Thank you for the heads up.

Should [your son] continue to have excessive tardies over 30 minutes or miss school with unexcused absences, you should encourage the SARB (School Attendance Review Board) as a means to protect you and your parental obligation and hold him accountable for the compulsory education law. If this does not occur by the end of the scheduled school year, you will be faced with having to start over next year as it is not a rolling discipline.

The SRO at your son's high school should be familiar with DA Lois Baer (408-792-2777) who reviews and determines the discipline sanctions for truants and willing runaway youth.

Best of luck,

From: [Mom]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 3:40 PM
To: [VP at high school]; and [school district administrator]

Subject: Re: URGENT - my son

Can you explain what [SRO] is describing (below) ... how does the SARB affect [my son / us]? I would like to understand more about this at your earliest convenience.

Appreciate all of your help,

From: [SRO - school resource officer]
To: [Mom]
Sent: Thu, May 6, 2010 5:42:43 PM

Subject: RE: URGENT - my son

The purpose of a SARB is to adhere to the Compulsory Education Law of California. Every child must attend school until the age of 18 or until receipt of their high school equivalency. Children not attending school is often a result of either of the two following things: 1) The parents are not taking responsibility for their child 2) The child is causing their own demise. The intention of the SARB is to identify which instance is occurring and follow that up with an appropriate sanction.

As we already spoke, [your son] is calling his own shots. A SARB would be directed at him, as you are fulfilling your obligations with the intention to get him to go to school.

From a school standpoint, this would be recorded permanently on his cumulative file. Should he transfer to a different school or seek a higher level of education in the future, this would reflect in any transcript documents.

From a criminal standpoint, this is a violation of the education code and he would likely be assigned an appropriate discipline by [DDA Lois Baer 408-792-2777]. This can include and is not limited to:
1) Civil fines and penalties (escalated by additional violations) on file as a lien against him
2) Community Service hours
3) Probation with terms "must be in school" (Violating this, he could be subject to arrest and placed in Juvenile Hall)
4) Revocation of license until 18 or 21
5) Incarceration at The Ranch monitored by Juvenile Hall
6) EMP (ankle monitoring)

If he is a VOLUNTARY RUNAWAY you are highly encouraged to contact the Police and file a report. You should also contact the school and notify them of his status. If the school reports his attendance as "present", a Police Officer must be called and he will be removed from the Missing Person's System immediately. The responding Officer will contact the parent or guardian to notify them that the juvenile has been located. It is that parent's responsibility to communicate to the Officer a desire to detain/release the juvenile. If detained, the Officer will hold the child for a reasonable amount of time for the parent to pick up their child. Should the child run away from home, even as early at that evening, a separate report will need to be generated with the same directions to follow. Officers CAN NOT decline a Missing Person's Report and it must be filed within 3 hours of taking the report.

By creating a paper trail, you are eliminating yourself from the liability of [your son's] actions. Imagine he is drunk, gets behind the wheel of a car and kills someone. You NEED to eliminate yourself from the liability he might cause by reporting his behavior. If he is willingly and knowingly missing school, then HE must suffer the consequences. If he is 18, you no longer assume the responsibility.

As we talked about before, you have resources: (in the Silicon Valley)
Bill Wilson House
Bill Wilson Counseling
Parent Project
Tough Love
Children's Protective Services (Children's Shelter is closed)
Alternate family members
Parents Helping Parents

Hope this helps,

From: [Mom]
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:57 PM
To: [High School administrators]

Subject: RE: URGENT - my son

I would appreciate it if [xxxx and xxxx] would review and comment on the email information (below), and let me know how to get the SARB (School Attendance Review Board) in place for [my son]. The information below was sent to me by a [School Resource Officer], who has been helping me understand police and school processes.

The last time we saw [my son] was Sat. May 8th. We have reported him "missing". He did leave a Mother's day card for me on my car on Mon May 10th. Yesterday, Tue May 11th, I checked out the program at the different high school in the district - unfortunately [my son] did not show up.

I look forward to hearing from you, on how to proceed.

Thank you,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Part 1: Troubled Teen and Truancy

I met this very nice woman, a professional who lives near me, and she told me about problems with her son. Because she sent a lot of information, I’m going to share this story in a few entries. Here’s the background:

“Our son, aged 15, had been running away from home during the last three months of his sophomore year and through mid-summer, and would be missing for up to 14 days at a time. We had no idea where he was or who he was with, as he had started hanging out with kids who we knew nothing about. When he was at home, although I would drop him off at school each morning, we were notified by the school's automated attendance phone calls that he was skipping classes, and eventually missing days of school at a time. Many phone calls and meetings with teachers and school administrators became commonplace.

The only times he would come home was when police got involved and cited him for an offense like stealing, shoplifting, or being with someone who was cited for something. Other times, the school would call when he was suspended or there was a behavioral issue at school, which required us to pick him up and bring him home. Of course, he was not happy about having to come home (as it was not on his own terms).

Fortunately during this time, I started meeting School Resource Officers (SRO's) affiliated with his school, as well as with the city we live in. I kept hearing the police and the SRO's say, "you've got to start a paper trail, and report him as a runaway every time he does not return home when expected". "Because of all the classes he is missing, you need to have the school prepare an SARB before the school year ends."

One particular SRO was extremely helpful, and he patiently helped me understand school, police and legal issues. His knowledge of the school system and police policies were critical to understand, and I gladly share this information, so that other parents will understand that the paper trails and documentation are additional ways to protect parents from poor choices their child makes.”