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Published: Friday, 2/9/2007

Toledo police plan crackdown on truancy

Toledo police will expand their efforts to catch students who play hooky, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday.

"We are going to step up the vigor and frequency of the sweeps," Mr. Finkbeiner told reporters. "I want those kids to have a chance, and you can't have a chance in today's world without an education."

The mayor was joined by Toledo Public Schools leaders to make the announcement.

Toledo police Deputy Chief Derrick Diggs said 13 truant students were nabbed before noon yesterday and 10 on Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Diggs said any location in the city is fair game to spot a truant student, but they tend to be found at libraries, for the free Internet access, and shopping malls, especially when the weather is cold.

There was a 17 percent increase in students apprehended for skipping school during the 2005-06 academic year over the previous academic year, Deputy Chief Diggs said.

Students who are picked up are generally taken to school by a police officer, and school officials follow up with parents, John Foley, Toledo Public interim superintendent, said.

"We know there are students not engaged in the educational process," Mr. Foley said.

For Toledo Public Schools - as well as all other Ohio school districts - it has been critical to get as many students as possible in the classrooms this week.

That's because this is one of two weeks during the year the Ohio Department of Education takes its official enrollment count for schools statewide. School districts are funded in part by the number of students.

Because school was canceled on Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Foley said the district is negotiating with the education department to use figures from a different five-day period.

The mayor praised the 29,400-student school system for its "high graduation rate" and 93 percent attendance rate recorded last school year.

He acknowledged that police have a difficult time determining if students seen outside during the day are in fact truant because there are more alternative school programs with untraditional hours than in the past.

Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said parents of truant students can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

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