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Suppression project sweep nets over a dozen Calexico truants

May 12, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Some local students who skipped school recently better hope they got their mother something really nice today.

More than a dozen high- schoolers were picked up during a truancy sweep Friday.

The sweep was conducted by Imperial County and Calexico agencies working on the Gang Violence Suppression Project.

Kids who weren't picked up didn't get away scot free. When there was no answer at the home of a student who has more than 10 absences, project team members left flyers with a phone number that the parents had to call.

Friday's sweep was the third this school year organized by suppression project agencies.

The project is funded through the governor's Office of Criminal Justice Planning. The lead agency is the Imperial County Office of Education. Collaborating agencies include Calexico Neighborhood House, the Calexico Police Department, county Probation Office and District Attorney's Office.

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The Calexico Unified School District is an unfunded project partner but an integral participant, according to suppression project training manager Nanette Conway.

Elena Castro, chairwoman of the district's student attendance review board, said the goal of the project is getting students to go to school so they can achieve. Kids who continually skip school cannot become successful in life, she said. Those students could face her review board though.

Castro said if a student piles up too many unexcused absences the student will be required to appear at a review board hearing with his or her parents. A habitually absent student could be sent to Calexico's community school or continuation school.

Depending on the circumstances the parents could face sanctions. Project team members said some parents need to face fines or attend parenting classes because they are enabling their kids to miss school.

Parents who need help can attend parenting classes at Rockwood School, according to project team member Leticia Aldana-Cota, a Project Overcomer counselor. She teaches free classes from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays.

In addition, the Office of Education will soon sponsor classes at Calexico High School or De Anza and Willie Moreno junior high schools in Calexico.

Asked if students are missing school because of work schedules, the team members said "No."

Castro said ditching is not a socioeconomic thing, either.

"We find them in the poorest and the nicest homes," she said.

They also find them in homes where they are not supposed to be. At one home, team members talked to a mother whose daughter had not shown up at school. The mother insisted there was some mistake. Not my daughter, she said. Call the school, she insisted.

A quick call to the school proved the girl was playing hooky.

The mother stormed out her front door toward a neighbor's house. Once there, she barreled through the door to find her daughter with a boyfriend.

The girl was taken to school.

The team members plan to conduct one more sweep before the school year ends.

Canoodling teens and young scofflaws beware.

"The word is out," Conway said.

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

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