City's Mayor, Superintendent Uniting To Curb Truancy

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Despite a decades-long background in school districts across the nation, Rockford superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson has never seen a city-wide approach against truancy like this.

"It's an example of an outstanding, pro-active decision by the mayor to go after this, and I'm very supportive of it, and I'm also thankful that he's willing to take that kind of aggressive action to help make this a better city and get kids in school," Thompson said.

That's at the forefront of a daytime curfew ordinance, now being discussed by a city council committee. The plan would fine any student under 18 up to $500, along with public service work, if caught ditching school unexcused. The ordinance's purpose? Restoring attendance, and restoring order, between a city and its schools.

"I think we're on the same page. The city and the school district need to be partners in setting a high community standard and enforcing that standard," Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said.

Thompson agrees with the ordinance's immediate consequences for truants caught out of school, proof that the city and its schools will say what they mean, and mean what they say.

"Especially the ones I call those casual truants, you know "I don't feel like going to school today, I'm going to hang out with my friends at XYZ place," they are going to think twice about doing that," Thompson said.

Morrissey also defends the curfew ordinance as a top city priority, arguing stronger students in class and off the streets will equal a stronger workforce for Rockford.

"They may not be the sexiest of issues, but they are the issues where upon we build a strong foundation, and if we take care of the blocking and tackling - the basics - then we'll get our share of victories," Morrissey said.

A victory in weakening truancy numbers the city's mayor and superintendent hope will result from a new daytime curfew.

Rockford Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson says District 205 had a nearly nine percent truancy population this past school year.

With a daytime curfew ordinance likely to be in place next school year, Thompson’s goal is to reduce the truancy rate to fewer than five percent.