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PROJECT BALTIMORE: City Schools Attendance Falls to 13-Year Low, Juvenile Crime Spikes

PROJECT BALTIMORE: City Schools Attendance Falls to 13-Year Low, Juvenile Crime Spikes

BALTIMORE (WBFF)-- Historically, Baltimore City Schools has had attendance problems. A Project Baltimore investigation found it’s getting worse. Currently, on any given day, nearly 25 percent of high school desks are empty – a 13-year high. Instead of being in school, police say, many of the kids are walking the streets and committing crimes. Could the answer lie with Baltimore City Schools?

From violent attacks on Halloween night, to a terrifying carjacking and a man pushed into the Inner Harbor. Baltimore City is under siege by criminals that, police say, are teenagers.

“Every single one of them involve juveniles, who are all walking the streets today because they are probably not in school, where they belong.”

That was a frustrated Baltimore City Police Spokesman T.J. Smith, one week ago. His impassioned statement got Fox45 wondering: What are the attendance rates in City Schools? And have they changed?

Project Baltimore sifted through years of state records and discovered the attendance at city high schools in 2017, dropped to a 13-year low, of 76 percent - surrounding counties are in the 90s.

Baltimore City: 76%

Baltimore County: 91%

Howard County: 95%

Anne Arundel: 92%

As we kept digging, we discovered this: In Baltimore City, 39 percent of high school students are considered chronically absent, or truant, by missing more than 20 days. That’s 8,400 teenagers who regularly are not going to school.

“Hearing that number, that’s a lot of young people who could have something to do during those hours that might be on the street doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” said Smith.

If a child between 5 and 18-years-old doesn’t go to school, state truancy laws hold parents accountable with up to $500 in fines or jail time. With nearly 40 percent of all city high schoolers truant, Fox45 asked North Avenue if it’s enforcing state law by reporting parents to police. We didn’t get an answer. Instead, we got a statement:

“Strong attendance is essential for students’ success, and the district has a longstanding commitment to ensuring that barriers to attendance are removed.” – Baltimore City Public Schools

The statement lists steps the District has taken to get kids to school, which include fostering strong relationships, providing laundry services, on-site childcare and running a re-engagement center to recruit dropped outs.

Meanwhile, Smith said the Police Department is actively working with the School District to get more kids to school. Because a 76 percent attendance rate, means nearly 25 percent of all city high schools aren’t in school, every day.

“When we hear a number like that, it’s a concern to us, of course, because that is 25% more young people who are potentially going to be on the streets, they could be up to no good,” concluded Smith.

Smith went on to say that if his Department comes in contact with a child who should be in school, they either take the child to school or to a parent. As far as using state truancy laws to hold parents accountable, Smith said, City Schools Police handle that. If our request for their records is answered, we’ll let you know.

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