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TPS issues letter opposing city council's proposed school truancy ordinance

Posted at 10:36 AM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 20:16:30-04

Tulsa Public School officials stated in a letter Wednesday that they are opposed to Tulsa City Council's proposed school truancy ordinance because it would "disproportionately target both our economically disadvantaged families and our families of color."

RELATED STORY: 'Therapeutic Attendance Court' looks to cut truancy

TPS and City Councilors have been working together to combat truancy.

Councilor Karen Gilbert authored a new ordinance that creates a "Therapeutic Attendance Court." 

It creates a program that is available to every family facing truancy charges in the Jenks, Union, and Tulsa districts. 

The fines range from $25 to $250 and those fines would have their truancy fines wiped away after completing the program.

The problem with that, TPS officials said, is that the fine could be a difference of paying for rent or being evicted.

"Even with the intent of providing a therapeutic court setting, the proposed ordinance creates a new entry point into the criminal justice system for our most vulnerable children and families. With Oklahoma topping the country for our rate of female incarceration, many of our children come from single parent families. Our children come from homes where one or more family embers may be struggling with mental illness. For many families we serve, $250 can mean the difference between making the rent and being evicted. An ordinance that creates this level of monetary penalty would exacerbate family instability, creating conditions where students are more likely to miss school. An ordinance that has the potential to increase negative interactions between young people and law enforcement could be a tragedy in the making."

- TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist, Board of Education President Suzanne Schreiber and Board of Education Vice President Cindy Decker stated in a letter.

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