Eastern Sierra officials fight truancy

Inyo Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer

Inyo Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer

Every year, truancy costs California schools $1.4 billion and can lead to school dropouts, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Three or more unexcused absences amount to truancy in terms of the law. A recent report by the Attorney General shows Inyo County has the second lowest truancy rate in the State with 5.1%. Mono County is listed at 26.7%. Local Mono officials believe that number is too high.

Inyo Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer said that Inyo’s low rate comes as a result of some hard work. Inyo has a policy in place that involves the courts, Probation and the District Attorney. McAteer explained that if a student shows “an excessive pattern of tardies, absences or cuts, the school meets with the student and their parents to resolve the issues.”

If that method fails, the parents and student are summoned to the courthouse for a Student Attendance Review Board hearing. Judge Dean Stout appointed McAteer and Probation Chief Jeff Thomson to serve on that Board. The District Attorney sends a letter, which is delivered by a Sheriff’s Deputy, summoning the family to a hearing at the courthouse. The Board listens to the school and the family and then makes a ruling or contractual agreement which binds the student to attend school.

School attendance is legally required and truancy violates California law. If elementary students violate their contract, their parents are fined up to $400 per violation. According to Superintendent McAteer, if a high school student violates an attendance contract, the Student Attendance Review Board “petitions the court to suspend or withhold the student’s driver’s license for a year.” If there is continued violation, the license may be withheld up to age 22. This is according to State law.

Superintendent McAteer said with this system in effect over the past five years, Inyo has seen schools be more proactive with truancy and the problem has dwindled. McAteer said over 85% of the cases the Board hears, which is about 40 per year, abide by the Board ruling and tardiness and absences go away.

According to the Attorney General’s report on truancy, Mono County has a 26.7% truancy rate. Officials are at work to correct problems. According to Mono District Attorney Tim Kendall, the Student Attendance Review Board meets every month to address truancy or behavioral problems at school. DA Kendall said officials from Eastern Sierra Unified School District, Mammoth School District, Public Health, Behavioral Health, Social Services, Probation, Sheriff, Police Department and DA are involved with the review board. He said the DA plays an integral part because family and/ or students may face charges under the Education Code.

Kendall said the goal is to ensure success. Families and the review board agree to a contract of action. Services to achieve the goal may include a number of things – from calling students every morning, addressing transportation issues or providing medical services. For those who fail to follow guidelines, sanctions can be imposed.

If students and parents fail to follow agreed on conditions, they may be referred to the Probation Department for more conditions, including counseling. If failure continues, the family is referred to the District Attorney where parents could face a criminal complaint or placement in a juvenile hall or group home.

DA Kendall and the co-ordinator of the Mono Review Board, Eastern Sierra Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Don Clark, both said the Attorney General’s truancy figures for Mono County seem too high for the real situation. Kendall said the County takes truancy very seriously and are “pretty much on top of it.”



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27 Responses to Eastern Sierra officials fight truancy

  1. RandyK October 15, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Enough of these progressive ideas. What about our freedom? How can the government force our children to go to school against their will. This is a slippery slope. Next thing you know we’ll be giving money to old people to live on when the stop working and food to poor people who can’t afford to eat. What’s becoming of this country.

    Obviously Mono County is a freer place than Inyo County – the 27% of the kids that don’t like school don’t have to go. They are free to be ignorant – like Texans.

    • Wayne Deja October 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

      RandyK….If you are refering to money given to “old people” to live on,it’s called Social Security…..something people pay into all their lives on their paychecks.And for the food to poor people so they,and their kids can eat,luckily,there are programs and many people ready,willing and able to donate so some people don’t starve to death….a time comes in many people’s lives that it is much appreciated.Not everyone goes by the FOX NEWS theory of ” if don’t have health insurance,don’t get sick “……or in this case,”If you don’t have a roof over your head, food or clothing for your kids,don’t lose your job”.

      • RandyK October 16, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        I should have added a winky face to my prior post. I was attempting to use sarcasm to make a political point. I believe universal education was one of the early progressive policies in our progressive nation and has made us all better off. Same with social security and food aid and even health care. If we are to successfully live together then there will always be a sacrifice of individual freedom for the common good. I have benefitted more than most from our educational system.

  2. Ken Warner October 15, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    [sigh] Here I go again…

    I think that truancy should be encouraged. If you force kids to go to school when they don’t want to, they will only disrupt the classes and other students. They may hold back students who really want to learn. Best to get rid of the trouble makers. Focus on the kids who want to learn. Teachers are in short supply as it is.

    If kids don’t want to go to school, maybe it’s because they aren’t interested. Find out what interests them and make curriculums that interest them. Maybe some of them want to be auto mechanics and cooks and video gamers. Who knows what the best course is for a young person?

    Maybe those oppressive laws and fines are one source of the lack of respect for government and legal system.

  3. ferdinand lopez October 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    wow,these kids that are not attending class are breaking into your homes while your at work,the parents are the ones who need to get their kids on the bus,stupid people raise stupid kids

    • Mongo The Idiot October 16, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      Parents not stupid in my case.
      My parents were both doctors, they were too busy to keep after me. I ditched school because I didn’t fit into the program and got lots of the thumbs downs from other kids. Also, my aptitude wasn’t reading and arithmetic, it was mechanical. I’ve always been an idiot by societies standard yet my interest in history and art has allowed me to excel as a wage earning adult. School was unattractive to me with the exception of art, shop, and a home economics class I took that was 98% girls. I was afraid to tell you what I wanted to be because I knew it wasn’t what you wanted. I have always loved work; I excelled in work programs both inside and outside of school.
      As an Owens Valley student I would have been very interested in non captivity style school programs such as:
      -Fish hatchery internship
      -Search and rescue internship
      -Volunteer fire internship
      -Pack station internship
      -Farrier internship
      -DWP internship
      -Independence Courthouse internship
      -Hunting, survival, and Gourmet game preparation experience.
      -Auto Mechanics, foundry work, and construction experience.
      – and so on…
      I am a high school dropout yet have managed to make a positive contribution to society through my non conforming gifts.
      * If you forced me to go to school I would have disappeared into the wilderness.
      Teenagers are spoken at, not spoken to. They are young inexperienced adults, equipped by nature with all the equipment necessary to make babies and start families of their own. Consider speaking to them with respect, the same way you would help your best friend during hard times. Consider offering them something that has value to you.
      Incarceration, fines and captivity have no value to me.
      One person who cared made all the difference for me, the costs for him were high.

  4. Dingo October 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    I remember not wanting to go to school one day. My dad said I could ditch but I had to go to work with him at his construction job. It sucked worse than school, it rained, I had to move all kinds of lumber, everybody yelling at me and throwing nails at me (mostly relatives). It sucked. I remember my cousin Mike telling me “dude, I don’t know about you but I’d rather be at school surrounded by a bunch of girls my age?”
    Maybe there are additional, less time consuming ways on how truancy is dealt with.
    I’ve known a few teachers and more often than not when the kids don’t care its because the parents don’t care and what can be done about that?
    Inyo County’s shows very impressive stats, almost hard to believe. Mono County could, perhaps, learn something from Inyo County.

  5. BOBBYJOE October 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    This is very interesting…I had 3 Hispanic High School students try to kick in my front door about 3 years ago. I was home at the time and immediately contacted 911. Office Scobey arrived about 25 minutes after the call with another Officer (anyone could of been killed in 25 minutes), but a TSA employee from the airport heard the call over a radio and was able to drive from the airport to my residence long before the MLPD showed up, she was a neighbor.

    I watched as the 3 attempted burglars or assailants ran down Main St, in front of the B Of A ATM Machines that have cameras, then crossed the Main St and Old Mammoth Road intersection, which also has cameras and finally disappeared by Shell and McDonalds. The MLPD refused to view any of the cameras videos and also refused to take any pictures of the damage to the door or doorframe and also refused to allow me to use the Mammoth High School Yearbook to point out the culprits.

    My situation is living proof MLPD does not care about the residence in Mammoth Lakes, the MLPD does not care attempted burglaries, nor do they care whether the kids are in school or not.

    • Dan Watson October 16, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      I have looked into the circumstances of the Attempted Burglary described by “Bobby Joe” and would like to provide some clarification. Bobby Joe is not his true name, but I will honor his use of an anonymous screen name as so many do on this website. I have reviewed the crime report, dispatch incident history, and spoken to former Officer (now Deputy) Scobie to prepare the following response. All conversations between “Bobby Joe” and Officer Scobie were recorded.

      The MLPD has had approximately 20 contacts with this individual going back to 1994. On October 3, 2010, at about 1:30 pm, he dialed 911 from his cell phone to report that three male Hispanics had tried to kick in the front door to his residence. By dialing 911 from a cell phone, the call went to the CHP. This often delays a response since the CHP dispatcher needs to get enough information to determine where the call is coming from and which agency it should be routed to. I was unable to determine how long it took for the call to be transferred to Mono County Dispatch, which handles MLPD’s calls for service.

      The Dispatch Center received the initial call at 1:36. The call was dispatched less than two and one half minutes later. Officer Scobie responded from Minaret and Bear Lake and arrived within 2 1/2 minutes from receiving the call. Two other officers also responded to the call and assisted in the investigation.

      An additonal reason for the delay in contacting the caller was because it was at a multi-unit two story apartment building and no unit number was provided. The officer asked Dispatch for a unit number and was told the call was disconnected. The caller had provided his name and the Dispatcher checked our local records and only had an address in Crowley Lake. The officers walked both floors of the apartment building and inspected each door observing nothing out of the ordinary. No one came out and identified themselves as the caller. Dispatch later located another address for the caller at this location with an apartment number, and the caller was contacted by officers. At the time he answered the door he said he’d called 20 minutes earlier. There is no mention in the report of a TSA employee or anyone responding form another location. This could have happened, but the person was not in the area when the officers were inspecting the building and no one identified themselves to the officers.

      However long the delay was between the time “Bobby Joe” called and he was contacted by the Police, it was unacceptable, especially for a crime in progress. There were a number of factors that caused the delay, but the message for the public is to realize that if you dial 911 on a cell phone in Mono County, it will go to the CHP. When they answer, you should advise the Dispatcher that you are in Mammoth Lakes, or wherever you are, and ask to be transferred. They will do so very quickly. You should also provide a unit number if in a multi-unit building.

      The officers observed some damage to the door. Photos were not taken because they would have been of no evidentiary value. The victim provided a partial description of the suspects, including partial clothing descriptions and where they were last seen.

      The officers provided advice to the victim about contacting 911, what to do if they are seen again, and informed him that they had checked the other residences for evidence of a crime. He thanked them and said there was nothing else they could do.

      The officers cleared the scened and conducted a search. Officers searched throughout that part of town for possible suspects and one person was detained, but released. The suspect information was also provided to the School Resource Officer.

      The victim came to the police station the next day and asked if the video cameras over the intersection of Main and Old Mammoth, Fire Station 1, the B of A ATM machine, and the Shell Station were checked. He was told that there are no video cameras at the intersection or Fire Station, that the cameras at the ATM only capture right in front of the machine and only when activated by a card, and there are no cameras behind Shell where the suspects were last seen. The

      I disagree that MLPD officers don’t care about our residents, burglaries, or students in school. I believe our record shows otherwise. I regret that it took an excessive amount of time for the caller to be contacted and that it’s unlikely that any explanation will satisfy his concerns. I would encourage him to contact me if he has any additional questions or concerns.

      • Big Rick OBrien October 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

        I also have had to learn the hard way that dialing 911 on a cell phone sends the call to the CHP. People, do yourself a BIG favor and put your local PD’s dispatch phone number in your phone… it’s a big time saver when seconds might make the difference. I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but when I
        had to call 911 while I was in Huntington Beach, and AFTER that initial 911 call, I found out that your phone is dead for any outgoing calls for 20 minutes EXCEPT to call 911.

    • Dingo October 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Now I say it for the third time this year “Right To Carry”.
      Sheesh, what is happening to our little piece of heaven?

      • Mark October 17, 2013 at 8:12 am #

        There’s 38 thousand concealed weapons being carried in Montana

  6. John Barton October 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    Ken- So, based on your logic, a kid should be encouraged to eat junk food because they don’t like healthy food, they shouldn’t have to brush their teeth because it’s too inconvenient, or encouraged to not wear a helmet riding a skateboard because it might mess up their hair? To encourage a behavior (truancy) just because a kid doesn’t want to do something is irresponsible as an adult whose is responsible for their upbringing.

    The fact of the matter is kids in general do not have the maturity level nor discipline to make decisions that can and will affect the rest of their lives. Kids should emerge from the school system with a basic understanding of math, science, reading and writing so that they are not a burden to society.

    I agree that in high school there should be more exposure to more vocations because we all know not everyone is cut out for college. Lastly, just because a kid doesn’t like something doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be exposed to it. There are lots of things in life we might need to do but don’t like– it’s called taking responsibility and having discipline to see things through.

  7. Ken Warner October 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    “Ken- So, based on your logic,….”

    No, that’s your own inflammatory rhetoric. Many kids do emerge from school with the education you outlined. I saw many of them in college. 16 and 17 year olds who were brilliant.

    Walk around Mammoth Lakes and you will see a bunch of kids the same age who can barely make whole sentences. Whose fault is thaat and should they be allowed to drag down those who really have potential to excel?

    Should I attempt to design a new rational for education in a blog???

    • John Barton October 16, 2013 at 7:40 am #

      What’s your solution to the kids who can barely make whole sentences? Tell them, it’s ok, the government will take care of you and your offspring?

      There are checks and balances in place called special ed classes which removes them from the “normal” classroom setting so that they aren’t “allowed to drag down those…”. If there are situations still present where there are big distractions then I, as a parent have gone to the administration and expressed my concern. Every time at Bishop Elementary and Home St school, something was done to correct the situation that I brought to their attention.

      The parents or legal guardians should be held accountable for their kids’ whereabouts to prevent crime and truancy.

      • Ken Warner October 16, 2013 at 9:10 am #

        Looks like you already know what to do so why are you barking at me?

        • John Barton October 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

          I seem to have insulted your very sensitive feelings by asking questions and making statements of fact and opinion just as you have done. The difference is I don’t take discussions on websites personally.

          • Do as I say ... October 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

            And the social polarization continues –

    • Desert Tortoise October 16, 2013 at 8:14 am #

      Under performing kids can be pushed to perform and their parents can be pushed to care about their children’s performance. Your objections to the time and effort necessary to do so are miniscule when compared to the effects on productivity and overall standard of living all of us enjoy when kids are pushed to both attend school and then succeed in their classes. So what if the kid objects? It is the adults’ responsibility to hold kids accountable for meeting the standards of their grade, and no excuses. If you cannot abide that then you have not grown up yet yourself.

      An educated population is not only the key ingredient in a prosperous nation with a high standard of living (consider you will have to work with or hire what our society produces) but as James Madison pointed out in his famous letter to W T Barry discussing free education in Kentucky, an educated population is essential to self government.

      “The liberal appropriations made by the Legislature of Kentucky for a general system of Education cannot be too much applauded. A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”.

    • Eye of the Beholder October 16, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Hmmm. That’s funny … When I walk around Mammoth, I see a bunch of kids who are bilingual. How many languages do YOU speak, Ken?

    • Trouble in River City October 16, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      Then there is the real hard, cold fact that there are too many people (and more due next year) and not enough good-paying jobs.

      • Ken Warner October 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

        And it’s not going to get better. Anybody who doesn’t take high school seriously is making a huge mistake. And they should not be allowed to disrupt the education of others who know that their education is the only thing that will get them a decent standard of living.

        There is medical triage where only those that will survive get medical treatment. Education is becoming just as precious — maybe there should be educational triage.

  8. Trouble October 16, 2013 at 5:50 am #

    I believe school is not designed for everyone. They should have more job training classes for the large amount of local students who either know they can’t get into college ,or can’t afford it. Some people suck at math and english no matter how much you shove it down their throats.

    • Ken Warner October 16, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Exactly Trouble. Actually, many people suck at the core academic skills that are necessary for a college degree. I know I do. I barely made it through my college education.

      When I was in high school, vocational training was just part of the broader curriculum. We had wood shop, metal shop, auto shop. There were cooking classes. I had friends who already were accomplished trades people.

      I don’t know what it’s like today. But given that people who work in the trades will always be needed, why wouldn’t these sorts of curriculums be available?

    • Terry October 16, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      John said the samething as Trouble about more vocational, aka job training classes. However, kids should leave school knowing how to balance a checkbook and write a complete sentence. I hated math and wasn’t good at it but I stuck it out with encouragement from my parents and am glad for their support. A lot of kids are in broken homes and don’t have the love and support they deserve. My son knows a number of kids at school who are in a one parent home and the mom or dad works at night leaving the kid to their own devices. Fortunately they all go to school and are doing ok under the circumstances but I fear for all the ones falling through the cracks. These are the kids the schools should be looking out for before law enforcement does. Thank you.

  9. Ken Warner October 16, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    I think I have once again demonstrated a fundamental American social network mechanism.

    If you see something wrong or broken, pretend you don’t see it and don’t say anything about it lest you be blamed for it and berated to fix it. Just play dumb and spare yourself the wrath of the blogsters.

    • Eye of the Beholder October 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      If it isn’t broken to begin with – don’t fix it.


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