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The Restorative Justice Evanston Committee (RJE) would like to inform the Evanston community about the facts of the proposed ordinance to address truancy. RJE understands that the education of our youth is the responsibility of the entire community and that truancy needs to be addressed at many different levels: the ordinance is intended to provide intervention at one of these points. This proposed ordinance has been previously written about following the ordinance’s presentation to the City Council, but certain facts have remained unclear or inaccurate. We hope that the following Q & A’s will increase the community’s understanding of and interest in truancy, dispel falsehoods and increase transparency of the ordinance goals.
1) What is a truancy ordinance?
A truancy ordinance is a municipality or city’s decree and law that implements the State Statute on truancy.
2) Will Evanston be ‘criminalizing’ truancy?
No. The State of Illinois has already made truancy a ‘crime’ by State Statue. The fact is that truants can currently be arrested; however, Evanston Police do not arrest truants because of the understanding that law intervention alone will not resolve the problems underlying truant behavior. There needs to be a comprehensive community intervention that includes police, school personnel, community social services, truants and their guardians.
3) What would the Evanston truancy ordinance look like?
The Evanston ordinance to address truancy specifically addresses CHRONIC TRUANCY, which is defined as missing 10% of designated school days. The proposed ordinance would be centered around the concept of a Community Accountability Board—CAB—which is a community based coalition of social service providers, school staff, Police Department representative/s (such as a Police Social Worker and/or School Resource Officer), the truant student and his or her guardian/s and any other family support person or community provider that would be relevant to helping a particular truant. The CAB Team would work together with the truant student and his/her guardians in order to identify the underlying factors contributing to the student’s truant behavior and then provide supportive services for the family and resolution of those factors and the truancy.
4) Do other municipalities have truancy ordinances?
Yes. Nearly all surrounding municipalities have a truancy or similar ordinance (such as a “day” or “school curfew”). However, Evanston’s proposed use of CAB and focus on supportive services first and foremost, in addition to completing school district truancy procedures, is a progressive response to chronic truancy as opposed to a sole focus on fines and police detainment.
5) What is the purpose and goal of the ordinance?
The purpose of the ordinance is to address the underlying reasons for a student’s chronic truancy. The majority of parents/guardians welcome community support to address school attendance problems with their children, but when supportive services are not accepted, the goal of the ordinance is to add an additional pressure point for working toward a resolution.
6) Who is proposing the ordinance?
The Truancy CAB Ordinance is a project of Restorative Justice Evanston—RJE—a coalition of citizens, community volunteers and service providers that are committed to the idea of community responsibility to address community problems. www.restorativejusticeevanston.com
7) Who would the ordinance affect?
The ordinance may affect those students identified by The School Districts as “Chronic Truants,” according to School District Policy. Only AFTER School District Procedures regarding school absences and truancy have been completed AND a student continues to be truant from school, will a referral to CAB be made by school staff. Only noncompliance with CAB would result in an ordinance violation.
8) Will the ordinance disproportionally affect certain populations?
No. The ordinance will affect only those students who meet School District criteria for Chronic Truancy.
9) How could the ordinance affect my child?
The ordinance is specifically written to allow and promote The School District Superintendents’ designees, such as Truancy Officers, the right to write truancy ordinance violations. The Truancy CAB Ordinance will NOT result in Officer discretion on the streets.
10) Will my child have a ‘record’?
A City Ordinance Citation does not result in a court petition and does not result in detention or jail but is handled thruogh an administrative hearing held at the City offices. An Ordinance Citation and Administrative Hearing will not prohibit a child from gaining employment.
11) What does research on truancy recommend?
Best practices in truancy reduction include recommendations for a coordinated and collaborative community response from schools, law enforcement, social services and the use of firm sanctions and incentives, parental involvement, and addressing the underlying root causes of the truant behavior.
For further questions or a copy of the ordinance draft, please contact:
Cristina Cortesi, ETHS Student Assistance Program – 847-424-7580
Sol Anderson, City Youth Coordinator – 847-448-8049
Patrice Quehl, Evanston Police Youth Services – 847-866-501