Officials look to curb truancy

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Fostering excitement, representatives from the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s office presented a program at Valencia Elementary School that focused on abolishing chronic truancy.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Ben Cross, trial attorney with the district attorney’s office.

Also in attendance were members of the Portales Rams sports teams, along with faculty, staff and parents. During the presentation was shown to the students that focused on the importance of staying in school.

Principal Todd Morris has worked with not only the district attorneys office, but also with the juvenile probation office and other entities in an effort to curb truancy problems with students in his school, he said.

Morris stressed that officials are working hard to build a foundation for the students in an effort to provide a good future for them. Encouraging the students to stay in school is key to their future, without attending school, students will have a harder time in life, Morris said.

“It’s been a great partnership. They (DA’s office) do a great job getting kids to stay in school and helping parents getting kids to school,” Morris said.

Cross said 70 percent of prison inmates in America are school dropouts. As a trail lawyer, he deals with many juveniles who are in the court system that have dropped out of school.

“If a child is not in school they are out in the community committing crimes and I would rather deal with (incidents in school) than in court,” Cross said.

Cross’ program focuses on two things — being proactive with the students by getting them excited about school, and holding parents accountable for their children’s attendance under the Failure to Enforce Compulsory School Attendance law, he said.

“If we can get to the kids young and teach them how important school is, it can result in fewer criminals,” Cross said.

Fifth-grade special education teacher and parent Katrina Prince agreed that the assembly’s message was one that was important to not only students but also parents. By having the district attorney’s office involved in the school, students will be more aware of the importance to attend school and the important role that education plays for their future, she said.

“I think if our DA’s office has a bigger presence in school, the kids will see and the parents will get the point too,” Prince said.