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Truancy ordinance advances

Despite complaints from some residents that the ordinance would be ineffective, Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted 4-1 Wednesday to make the parents of children declared chronic truants subject to a $100 city fine.

Despite complaints from some residents that the ordinance would be ineffective, Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted 4-1 Wednesday to make the parents of children declared chronic truants subject to a $100 city fine.

The vote came after Vernon Clark, an associate principal at Evanston Township High School, described the elaborate process the school goes through now to try to persuade students and their parents of the importance of staying in school.

After several letters sent home and efforts to meet with parents and the absent student, Clark said, the process can ultimately lead to a family court hearing in the county court system where parents could face substantial fines for child neglect.

But that process can take over a year, and Clark said school officials would appreciate having the additional option of handling the issue through the city’s administrative adjudication process.

Clark said 24 ETHS students were declared chronic truants by the school last year. ETHS has a total enrollment of about 3,000.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she supports the concept of providing more support to get students back into school, but doesn’t believe the ordinance will achieve that.

"The parents will be fined, and the youngster will continue to be a chronic truant," Holmes said.

Betty Sue Ester of 2031 Church St. complained that the ordinance would create two parallel systems running at the same time with parents subject to penalties in both.

And resident Madelyn Ducre of 1929 Foster St., said that the schools now don’t act fast enough to respond to truancy problems.

"Do we care about these students or not?" Ducre asked. "I’m hearing it takes whole year now. You should nip it in the bud. If a student misses two days, send a truancy officer to their home."

But Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he supported "adding another layer" to the efforts to get kids to stay in school. "It’s the right thing to do," he added.

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