Panelists identify delinquency and truancy issues at Educational Forum
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (May 14, 2014)—Eleven Riverside County candidates for public office participated in an educational forum May 13 to discuss a variety of topics, including juvenile delinquency and truancy in Riverside County.
“Believe it or not, we still have school truancy at the university level,” said Marilyn Moore, CBU associate professor of behavioral sciences, as she introduced the program. “What we’re finding is, as students come in with that as their habit, they bring their truancy with them.”
Panel members included candidates for the Riverside County Board of Education: Michael Martinez Scott, Kenneth Young, Jeanie Corral, Gerald Colapinto, Lynne Craig and Wendel Tucker; Riverside County Board of Supervisors candidate Arthur Gonzales; sheriff candidates Chad Bianco and Stan Sniff; and district attorney candidates Mike Hestrin and Paul Zellerbach.
Moderator Sheri Stuart, executive director of One Nation Media, kicked off the discussion by quoting an Attorney General’s 2013 Report that showed elementary truancy in Riverside County during 2011 and 2012 was 23.9 percent—more than 53,000 students—which was among the highest rates in the state.
“Our kids are not engaged, and they’re finding other things to do than to be involved in school,” Zellerbach said. “Oftentimes problems start at home, and they bring those problems to school. It’s important that we collaborate. If graduation rates increased 10 percent, violent crime would decrease by 20 percent.”
Scott believes broken families may impact truancy, underlining a need for additional help. “It is the missing father in the home,” he said. “We need to partner with community faith leaders.”
Bianco said he believed it is important to identify kids at risk and work with the schools.
“Everything is about punishment,” he said. “We have to do something else. We need to work with the schools and in the communities.”
Sniff, who is the current Riverside County sheriff, said he believed the sheriff’s office is ground zero for identifying problems and working with the community.
“We police 17 of 28 cities in Riverside County,” he said. “After the recession hit, latchkey kids had a whole new name. We have 42 school resource officers who are engaged with kids in the schools.”
The candidates identified a variety of reasons for truancy in Riverside County schools.
“The causes are complicated, but we have to tackle them head-on,” Hestrin said. “We should concentrate not on punishment but bringing them back in the fold. You have to go back to the family.”
“It starts with chronic absenteeism, which then becomes truantism, which turns into juvenile delinquency,” Zellerbach added. “We have to work together, communicate with each other and get our kids back in school before they turn to criminal behavior.”
The event, which took place in Wallace Theatre on the campus of California Baptist University, was sponsored by Women Wonder Writers and co-sponsored by CBU’s sociology and criminal justice programs.