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L.A. City Council may slash fines for truant students

February 22, 2012 | 11:41 am

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote Wednesday to limit truancy laws that levy heavy fines on late or absent public school students.

More than 200 students gathered with L.A. Board of Education President Monica Garcia outside City Hall to demonstrate in favor of changing the rules, arguing that, in its current form, the law is an untenable burden for students and their families.

Currently, students who are repeatedly truant can receive fines as high as $850. Under the proposed plan, fines would be limited to $155 for students who have three or more violations. Also, students would not be ticketed if they arrive within the first hour of the school day.

Councilman Tony Cardenas, a proponent for the motion, said at a news conference the new approach would implement safeguards for students with the intention of attending school, rather than penalize them. 

"That's the critical difference," said Laura Faer, education rights director for Public Council Law Center. "Tutoring, mentoring, community service and counseling is prioritized over a fine that parents can't pay."

She said the support for the motion showed a nearly unprecedented coalition of the Board of Education, Los Angeles police and juvenile court judges.

The student protesters were dressed in cap and gowns -- and others in jail-style orange jumpsuits -- arguing the tickets were financially crippling and, more than anything, impeded their education.

One of those students, Rosa Solache, a junior at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, received one of the tickets -- a $250 fine in March of 2009, she said, all because she missed the bus.

"When I got my first ticket that day, I felt hopeless," she said. "I knew what had been done to me and other students was an injustice."


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-- Angel Jennings at Los Angeles City Hall