6 Months Later, Is Truancy Program Getting OKC Students Back In School?

Monday, November 22nd 2010, 12:25 am
By: News 9

Jon Jordan, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Thousands of Oklahoma City school students will likely not show up for classes Monday, even after more than six months since the city beefed up its truancy laws. However, police said their efforts are working.

Lieutenant Paco Balderrama, who is in charge of Oklahoma City's truancy program, admitted there are so many students ditching school that there is no way his officers can get to all of them. However, he said taxpayers are getting their money's worth.

Oklahoma City resident Berkeley Potts said she has had enough and thinks the Truancy Program isn't working.

"I would like to see this situation stopped," Potts said.

She said for three years now she has watched one of her neighbor's children stay at home when he should be at school.

"He's a sweet, sweet young man. He's just not going to school," Potts said.

She said she was hoping the tougher truancy laws that now have police going door-to-door would help get kids back to school, but she thinks it hasn't.

"I haven't seen it work yet," Potts said.

Lieutenant Balderrama admitted the department is understaffed and that has made it impossible for his six officers to reach every student not going to school.

"This is definitely a different approach," Balderrama said. "There were 66 percent that we were never able to address, never able to go visit."

Still he said citizens like Potts shouldn't get discouraged..

"It definitely made a difference," Balderrama said.

He said out of the homes officers did visit, those students improved their attendance by over 50 percent, but the true benefit he said is impossible to know for sure.

"It's definitely a public benefit to get kids in school because when they aren't in school they usually are doing something they shouldn't be doing and causing harm to the community," Balderrama said.

Another reason Balderrama said taxpayers should be encouraged is because for the next three years, the truancy program will be funded primarily through federal grants. Balderrama also said he knows about Potts' neighbor and fully expects criminal charges against the mother.