A Kansas City Council Committee postponed a decision today on whether Kansas City should adopt a daytime curfew to address the problem of chronic truants.
The Kansas City Public Schools and the Kansas City police department asked for the local law to help them combat truancy and juvenile delinquency that officials said contribute to crime, especially in neighborhoods around Northeast High School, Ruskin High School and some other area high schools.
But home school parents turned out in force today, urging the city council’s Public Safety Committee not to impose a daytime curfew. The committee postponed a decision until its next meeting March 21.
The current proposal would prohibit children ages 7 through 16 from loitering unsupervised in a public place from 30 minutes after school starts to 30 minutes prior to the end of school. If police officers find violators, those children would be taken to school, placed in the parent’s custody or taken to a secure location until a parent or guardian could be found.
Parents or guardians of those children could then be subject to fines of up to $100, although the school district said it could provide counseling and other interventions instead of a fine.
“It’s not about the fine,” said Councilman Scott Wagner, who sponsored the proposed ordinance at the request of police and the schools. Wagner also has the support of residents of the Indian Mound neighborhood and other residents of Old Northeast, who say truant children from Northeast High are causing problems and petty crimes during school hours.
Wagner said about 100 other cities across the country have daytime curfews. In the metro area, Independence and Grain Valley have daytime curfew laws on their books.
School board member Crispin Rea spoke in favor of the ordinance, arguing it will help the school district improve its attendance levels and regain accreditation. He said the district is committed to providing the support services necessary to making sure truants stay in school, but needs the added enforcement teeth that the ordinance will provide.
About 60 parents and children involved in home schooling attended today’s committee meeting to oppose the ordinance.
Brad Haines, executive director of Families for Home Education, represents home schoolers statewide but lives in Kansas City. He testified that there’s no evidence daytime curfews alleviate crime. And he said such a curfew would set up an adversarial relationship between police officers and home-school kids who are out in public on legal, legitimate school activities.
He said home schoolers shouldn’t have to worry about being checked.
Kansas City Police Maj. Karl Oakman, division commander for South Patrol, said his own two children are home schooled. He said the ordinance is not aimed at home schoolers, and he doesn’t anticipate a problem. But he said a daytime curfew could give police another enforcement mechanism against chronic truants and parents who don’t take sufficient responsibility for their children’s activities.