The daytime curfew law that seeks to keep young people in school is being counterproductive in many cases and should be reevaluated. Los Angeles Councilmen Tony Cardenas and Bernard Parks have introduced a motion to reconsider the practice of issuing $250 fines to minors found out on the street during normal school hours and look for other less punitive solutions.
Between 2005 and 2009, authorities issued 47,000 citations to students, with a large majority (88%) being given to Latinos and African-Americans.
Last April, L.A.’s police chief modified how the fines were issued after complaints that his officers were going overboard, like for example, by waiting at the school entrance and stopping students minutes before the start of classes or inside the educational establishment itself.
Even so, doubts remain about the effectiveness of the curfew and the need for fines like these to tackle the problem. Results throughout the years in cities where similar restrictions have been imposed are inconclusive. Some cities report they do help combat school dropouts, tardiness and absenteeism, while others report just the opposite.
Likewise, Cardenas is right in saying the remedy can be worse than the illness: $250 is too much money for anyone from the working class and fulfilling the requirements of the fine also means missing more classes.
A middle ground needs to be found between a punitive solution-one that sometimes helps to “stimulate” appropriate behavior-and a cooperative one, which looks for another way to enforce school attendance while taking into account each student’s situation.
On the other hand, the work of police and their involvement in the community will still allow habitual truants to be identified so other measures can be taken, without necessarily criminalizing so many students.