Truancy rates among our local public school students must be addressed, and it's good to see the Fulton County Truancy Task Force has some ideas with which to approach the problem.
At a recent meeting of the group - which started last year - law enforcement, social services and school representatives discussed how to tackle the issue of truancy.
According to the New York State Education Department's district report cards, annual attendance rates for a few local school districts during the 2009-10 school year included: Gloversville, 92 percent; Johnstown, 93 percent; Broadalbin-Perth, 94 percent, and Fonda-Fultonville, 95 percent.
Obviously, being illegally absent from school is not a chronic problem for the vast majority of students. But for some students, missing school is an issue.
As members of the task force pointed out, a day of school skipped is a lost day full of learning. Not only that, members of the task force noted, but truancy leaves children open to the possibility of getting into trouble.
The anti-truancy coalition discussed many new approaches for combating the problem, including: establishing daytime curfews; enacting state legislation to tie teenagers' eligibility to obtain a learner's permit or driver's license to their daily attendance; and establishing countywide protocols with the support of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services rather than rely on services outside the school district.
Task force members noted they may consider less punitive measures than the ones that exist now. A couple of educators opined that measures now - which rely on contacting the police, the district attorney's office and the Department of Social Services - are too punitive and ineffective.
We hope the task force stays focused on reducing student truancy rates. How effective a measure is at keeping students in school should be the main concern of the group. Whether an idea is more or less punitive than what is currently on the books, if it is effective, it is most likely a step in the right direction.
Local and state taxpayers have shelled out a good amount of money over the years to establish schools that many people, understandably, take a great deal of pride in.
The least the students can do is show up.