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No excuses for six truant teen-agers

February 17, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The following excuses weren't good enough:

"I don't feel good."

"My alarm clock doesn't work."

"I was up really late last night."

Six teens who gave the aforementioned excuses or variations on the themes were picked up by truant officers Friday morning and taken to school.

The truancy sweep was organized by the Gang Violence Suppression Project, a Neighborhood House program designed to help keep teens out of gangs.

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The project is sponsored by the Calexico Police Department, Calexico Unified School District, county Probation Office and the District Attorney's Office.

Esteban Jaramillo, project coordinator, said four teams spread out across the city to visit the homes of 25 teens who have missed school more than 10 times. The teams consisted of one school district official and one law enforcement officer.

In addition to taking each of the teens to their respective schools, project team members counseled the teens about the importance of regular attendance.

The six teens, ages 14-18, attend Calexico or Aurora high schools and Willie Moreno or De Anza junior highs.

Jaramillo said, "I thought we were going to get more kids."

He gave credit to the 19 targeted teens who showed up for school Friday.

"I'm very happy for those kids," he added.

Jaramillo said it would be a good idea for those teens to keep attending school.

Project teams will be making another sweep in coming weeks.

"We're going to continue on random dates until we get kids to realize there are consequences if they don't go to school," he said.

Some of the consequences:

· fines for parents of habitually truant teens

· parents could be required to attend parenting classes

· criminal prosecution of teens by the District Attorney's Office.

"We'd seek penalties on a case-by-case basis," Jaramillo said.

The Gang Violence Suppression Project is funded by a $340,000 state grant from the California Office of Criminal Justice Planning.

The money is divided among various sponsors and used to fund truancy sweeps, mentoring programs and other activities that help keep teens on the straight and narrow.

"Any kid not in school is a problem. If we can cause one kid to stay in school it will be beneficial for the family and the kid's future," Jaramillo said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com.

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