By Samantha Sammartano, CFCC Student Fellow 2014-2015
The Truancy Court Program (TCP) is a wonderful initiative created and implemented by the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC). The TCP seeks to address the reasons why students miss school, amounting to thousands of school days that are missed each year by truant students in Baltimore.
While we, as CFCC Student Fellows who are new to the TCP this semester, may have felt a sense of hopelessness at some point during the semester, we have recently experienced a turnaround. Over the past couple of weeks, for example, I have grown attached to several TCP students and have felt genuine pride in their accomplishments. I think that they appreciated what I had to say and the effort I was putting in to get to know them, not simply to scold or “fix” them. And it made a difference.
When discussing the reasons underlying their absences, many of these young people say that MTA (city) buses often pass them by or are unreliable. The best remedy in this situation, in my opinion, is implementing a busing system for the public schools. Students would have a set time when the school bus would pick them up in the morning, and they would travel directly to school.
Students tell us that they are sometimes afraid to catch a city bus. School buses would provide students with a safe and secure means of transportation. In addition, the camaraderie generated when a group of young people waits day after day for the bus becomes a vehicle for creating and nurturing strong friendships. Students learn how to get along with their peers and how to look out for themselves and their friends. But most importantly, developing a group of neighborhood buddies at the bus stop can be the catalyst for lifelong friendships among children who will grow up together. The children will learn that the definition “family” extends to the bonds they form with other folks, too.
Additional benefits to a separate school busing system include, among others, limiting students’ exposure to extreme weather conditions – thereby removing the excuse that a student is absent because it was raining or snowing – and reducing travel time to school. It is impossible to put a dollar sign on keeping children safe and implementing programs that will promote their education.