January 3-10, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
When Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts took office last summer, he said reducing Hartford’s truancy rate would be one of his top priorities. Since then, Roberts has assigned HPD detectives to identify habitual truants and discuss the problem with their families to see if and how the situation can be corrected.
“We are not trying to arrest children,” Roberts said at a press conference on Thursday, December 21, at Fox Middle School. “We’re trying to find out how we can help them keep their kids in school...Truancy is the first indicator that a young person is giving up and losing his or her way. It is the first sign of trouble and a gateway to crime.”
The press conference was called to announce that the Travelers Connecticut Foundation has awarded the HPD a $150,000 grant to support its Truancy Prevention Program.
Roberts said the grant will be used to finance a variety of programs and activities designed to encourage Hartford students to stay in school.
Few would dispute the fact that Hartford’s truancy problem has gotten out of hand. Hartford School Superintendent Steven Adamowski said that approximately 1,600 of the school systems 24,000 students are absent each day, including an average of 510 ninth graders who are making the critical transition from middle school to high school. Last year, he added, 284 students were absent from school for 80 days or more.
Both Adamowski and Roberts asked that the community take an active part in curbing truancy by questioning children who are on the streets during school hours and/or notifying the school system.
“This is about adults knowing better than children,” said Adamowski. “I’m very gratified that the Police Department has taken the lead on this issue.”