Police officers went door to door Tuesday morning on a mission to find students missing from school. The Kern High School District supplied officers with names of students in four high schools targeted in the truancy sweep.
"When a student misses school even for one day, it takes approximately five days for them to catch up in their school work, says Lynn Bauer, the Attendance Accounting Administrator for the Kern High School District. “So it's really important the kids go to school."
Bauer says attendance has increased by more than two percent since the district started doing truancy sweeps for its 37,000 students.
Officers searched for students from Centennial, Frontier, Vista West and North High Schools. The district conducts about 9 to 10 sweeps a year for its 18 schools. On Tuesday, police found 48 students out of school and cited 10. They cited one North High School sophomore after finding him home in Oildale with his brother who was also home from school and said to be sick.
"Both students were at home, and there was nothing wrong with them,” says Lalo Celedon, a Kern High School District police officer. “They were just defiant with their mom, they didn't want to go to school."
Police arrested 43-year-old Jeanna Leefeldt for child endangerment, being under the influence of a controlled substance, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of marijuana. Officers arrested her son for having burglary tools. They found a hacksaw, gloves and pliers in his backpack and another sharp tool in his pocket.
The Kern County District Attorney's Office says 60 percent of daytime crimes are committed by juveniles who should be in school and 80 percent of all inmates never graduated from high school.
"If you're able to make an impact on truancy, then you're making a huge an impact on daytime crime," says Wendy Avila, Deputy District Attorney. “Everybody should care about whether or not our children are being educated, so the D.A.’s office is involved because there are criminal consequences.”
Avila says truant students could be fined from $191 to $380, and their parents could be fined $420, get their driver’s license revoked, and risk losing government assistance.
"It is a sad, says Celedon. “But at the same time, I feel that it is a positive thing because we are making the parents aware that they need to change their behavior to improve their children's behavior and make changes in their lives."
Parents can track their child's attendance record by going to the Kern High School District web site and clicking on the parentvue access link.