Where are the children?
Where are their parents?
Those are the questions buzzing nearly three weeks after the Indianapolis Public Schools opened four schools early for the 2007/2008 school year.
Three middle schools – John Marshall, Emma Donnan, William Longfellow – and elementary School 44, began the official school year Monday, July 23rd.
The earlier than normal start, three and a half weeks before the rest of IPS returns Aug. 15, was a last gasp effort. Under No Child Left Behind, these four schools could permanently close next year because of severe academic achievement deficiency.
Opening school the day after Black Expo, and 23 days before everyone else, was a risk. And while IPS officials didn’t expect perfect attendance at first, they were stunned when just a third of students enrolled arrived those first days.
Two weeks after classes started, of a total combined enrollment of 1,783, only 1,089 showed up; 61.7 percent of enrollment.
On this 13th anniversary of Just Tellin’ It, I have to ask what’s going on here?
Because of the media attention focused on the problems at John Marshall, most assume the youngsters who haven’t returned to school are African-American. But the obvious, isn’t obvious.
John Marshall and School 44 are majority-Black schools. Last school year, 85 percent of John Marshall’s students were Black; 70 percent of School 44’s students were Black. The two other schools are majority non-Hispanic white. Last school year 53 percent of Longfellow’s students were non-Hispanic whites; 36 percent Black. Sixty-six percent of Emma Donnan’s students were non-Hispanic whites; 25 percent Black.
Black and white and Hispanic students are those who haven’t returned to class at these four academically challenged schools.
And why has the response by the IPS’ top administrators, not to mention law enforcement, been so low key and subdued?
If these four schools can’t meet the No Child Left Behind standard of averaging 95 percent attendance for the entire school year, they will be closed, regardless of how their students score on the ISTEP tests.
So, why haven’t school officials, school police, Metro Police and the Marion County prosecutor’s office been more aggressive to get these students in school and charge their parents with violating Indiana’s truancy laws?
The truancy law is clear. Students aged 7 to 18 must attend school. Not attending without proper excuse is truancy.
Truancy is found in Title 20, Article 33, Chapter 2 of the Indiana Code. The highlights:
- Indiana Code IC 20-33-2-27(a): “It is unlawful for a parent to fail to ensure that the parent’s child attends school as required.”
- Indiana Code IC-20-33-2-28(b): “It is unlawful for a parent to: (1) fail; (2) neglect; or (3) refuse; to send the parent’s child to a public school for the full term as required under this chapter unless the child is being provided with instruction equivalent to that given in public schools.”
- And Indiana Code IC-20-33-2-44(b): “A person who knowingly violates this chapter commits a Class B misdemeanor.”
To me, keeping one’s children out of school for the first two weeks of the year is a willful violation of the law. So, why haven’t IPS officials, police and the prosecutor taken action?
The 1,089 students who showed up on time are enjoying small classes and personalized instruction, which will help greatly on next month’s ISTEP. It would be a shame if their progress is hampered and their school closed because of bone headedness of parents who don’t understand that education is serious business.
We’re always asking why parents don’t take more responsibility for their children and their children’s education. But then, as a community, we don’t get serious about taking action when problems ensure.
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has been quick to prosecute when a parent leaves children outdoors in a car in a heat wave; or if young children are left home alone to fend for themselves; or when a toddler leaves home and nearly crosses an interstate.
So why isn’t deliberately letting your kids miss the first two weeks of school just as egregious behavior? It’s just as illegal!
We can’t expect parents to take their parental schooling responsibilities seriously, if we as a community don’t take it seriously.
Those parents who let their children skip the first days of school in those four IPS schools should feel the full force of the law.
It’s time to send a message that school is important.
Don’t you agree?
What I’m hearing in the streets
Another example of the Indianapolis Business Journal scooping the Star with an article pointing out tax breaks and reduced assessments received by Indianapolis’ top downtown skyscrapers. Written by Cory Schouten, the IBJ story points out the unfairness of the assessment process, describing tax abatements and deals local businesses get. Deals that raise homeowners’ taxes.
The story quotes Center Township Assessor Eugene Akers saying, “Business has been getting away with murder.”
Sadly, yes they have.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is embarked on a mission to protect voting rights in all 50 states in the next election. DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Donna Brazile, head of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute announced plans for an in-depth survey of voting practices and procedures in every American county.
During a press briefing for minority media, Brazile and Dean said their effort is designed “to identify and attempt to resolve election administration issues that threaten to deprive citizens of the right to register, vote and have their vote counted.”
I asked Dean and Brazile if they anticipated local county officials not cooperating with the Democratic effort. They said no. So did Jennifer Wagner, Indiana Democratic Party’s communications director. The state party, which is doing the DNC survey here, is more worried that “our statewide election officer (Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita) spends more time traveling the world than focusing on his job, (of ) elections being administered fairly and impartially at the local level.”
Steve Barnett has headed the Tillman H. Harpole American Legion Post 249 located on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street in the heart of the hood. Now Barnett holds another distinction. He’s the new commander of the Indiana American Legion’s 11th District, which serves nearly 9,000 legion members in the city/county. Barnett is the first African-American to hold such a position.
Congratulations to Barnett and all the other African-American American Legionnaires.
See ‘ya next week.
Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of The Indianapolis Recorder. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or e-mail him at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.