Covington, however, is following in the footsteps of a neighboring county. A similar ordinance in nearby Newport has been in effect for over 10 years, with positive results according to Kippenbrock. “When you drive around Newport you do not see kids on the streets on a school day and officers say it’s had a positive impact on reducing daytime crime,” says Kippenbrock.
As to whether Newport’s ordinance has improved graduation rates, Kippenbrock admits, “it’s hard to say.”
What Kippenbrock has found is a surprising measure of support for the Covington ordinance throughout the community. The only backlash has come from the homeschooling community with concerns those kids will be penalized for having different hours than regular public school students. As a result, Covington police are requesting homeschooled kids get a note from their parents when they’re out during school hours.
It’s far from a perfect system, but says Jennings, it’s born out of a larger disconnect between schools and parents. “Schools are being held accountable for test scores and graduation and yet the kids aren’t showing up and the parents don’t seem to care as much,” Jennings tells Shine. “Fining parents and arresting kids are negative ways of getting the message across that school is important, but what kids are doing out of school when they’re not under supervision is damaging too.”
In Belen, New Mexico, a similar policy is being enacted this week. Their plan is to prosecute parents with repeatedly truant kids. Under the new rules, moms and dads could face fines or even jail time if they don’t improve their kids’ attendance records. “The safest place for kids is at school and most parents want their kids to succeed, but a lot of times life kind of gets in the way,” according to Richard Romero, Belen’s truancy expert.
In Covington, Kentucky, where almost 90 percent of students live at or below the federal poverty level, life has more demands for the average student. “What I found over the years is kids being kept home to babysit their siblings when their parents go to work,” says Kippenbrock. When parents can’t afford day care and can’t afford to miss work, the problem falls to the student and eventually the school.
Ideally, schools should be offering more night and weekend classes so students could work around family schedules. But according to Jennings, that’s not a reality. “We’re at a time when public schools are in their second or third years of cutbacks and school districts don’t have a lot of money,” he says. “It would be nice if schools offered more flexible schedules for students, but doesn’t seem to be in the cards.”
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