Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Truancy Crackdown Pays off at Beaches Skips Down, So Are Some Burglaries

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Truancy Crackdown Pays off at Beaches Skips Down, So Are Some Burglaries

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

Gene Heath has heard all the excuses about why kids skip school. They have to stay home to baby-sit their little brother. They missed the bus. They're tired of being teased for wearing hand-me-downs or clothes that aren't cool.

Those were just some of the reasons given by 4,548 students caught skipping in Duval County in the 2001-02 school year, 300 of whom were found at the Beaches.

"We're picking up a lot of children," said Heath, program administrator for the Jacksonville Truancy Interdiction Program. "By no means am I pleased by the numbers."

Heath said Fletcher High students better think twice about wearing swim trunks under their clothes and sneaking out to the beach between classes.

Since the opening of the Beaches Truancy Center on Jan. 8, 2001, police officers with the three Beaches cities are required to stop, question and detain youths seen during school hours.

Officers caught 300 students skipping class at the Beaches in the 2001-02 school year. In the second half of the 2000-01 school year, 218 students were stopped for truancy at the Beaches.

"They thought nobody was going to stop them," Heath said. "That's no longer a truism. You can't just get in the car and go to the beaches and be off scot-free."

Heath gave a report on the success of the Beaches truancy program to the Join Together Jacksonville Beaches Task Group last week..

The report included information about a Fletcher High School skip-prevention program involving 20 ninth- and 10th-graders whose class attendance improved by more than 50 percent.

The students were chosen for the program because they had missed at least 15 periods from at least three classes. Their attendance was monitored weekly. If they missed three classes within five days, they were picked up and brought to the Truancy Center at the Boys and Girls Club on Seagate Avenue across from Fletcher High. …

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