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Hyde Park council sends truancy ordinance back to P&Z for more work

April 16th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Jamee Dyches

HYDE PARK — Parents attended the city council meeting Wednesday to express concern about a proposed truancy ordinance that would allow police to question Hyde Park children ages 6-18 who were not in school during school hours.

Mayor Bryan Cox opened the meeting up to a public hearing and citizens addressed the council.

Becky Saldivar asked the council why a truancy ordinance was needed, and stated that she was concerned about home-schooled children. “I believe they’re affected by this truancy ordinance,” Saldivar said, “I’m concerned that they’ll be harassed.”

In reference to the wording of the ordinance Saldivar said, “It’s too broad and it infringes on all of our citizens’ rights.”

Kimberly Cook pointed out that the proposed ordinance would hold owners, operators and employees of businesses accountable for not turning in truant students who are on their property. “Their job is to run their business, not to babysit other people’s children,” Cook said.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Gene Reck told the council of concerns that his daughter had about the ordinance. He said his daughter allows her children to stay home from school as a reward for doing well in school, and that she is worried she will get ticketed for allowing them to do this. “What if they are home sick, or what if they had to stay home to babysit?” Reck questioned.

Cook went as far as to compare the proposed ordinance to Nazi sympathizers turning in their Jewish neighbors during World War II. He admitted that it was a far cry from that,“but what’s next?” Cook added.

Many parents at the meeting said they were concerned about police officers coming up to their children while they were at the park for their homeschool recess and questioning them about why they were not in school. Many expressed concern that it would cultivate a negative attitude towards policemen in their children, and they did not want that to happen.

Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Bret Randall said he has been with the Logan City Police Department for 20 years and is currently the lieutenant who oversees all of the school resource officers. He has been in high schools as a resource officer himself, working with Logan city’s truancy ordinance that is almost identical to the one being proposed in Hyde Park.

“I can’t remember one case that has been a problem with Logan city’s truancy ordinance,” Randall said. “We don’t hunt truants, there’s too much to do with our limited man power for that to happen.”

Randall explained that the majority of the time school administrators will call the police department and let them know about truant students and ask for their help in locating them. “We don’t deal with 98 percent of students,” Randall said. “The other 2 percent we deal with all of the time.”

In response to this statement, Christine Johnson expressed concern that if the ordinance was passed, police officers intended to enforce the ordinance selectively.

Currently, truant students at Cedar Ridge Middle School, which is located in Hyde Park, may end up seeing a judge for missing school, but it could be up to six months before they see one. Randall explained that if the proposed truancy ordinance is adopted in Hyde Park, those students will see a court officer within 30 days of receiving a citation.

After the public hearing was closed, council members discussed their thoughts and ideas about the ordinance. Councilman Charles Wheeler proposed that the ordinance be reworded so that children on the street during school hours are assumed innocent until proven truant. Wheeler said that he thinks the first action should be to call the parents if a child is truant, and if nothing happens, report it to the police on the third truancy and allow them to take the actions that the proposed truancy ordinance would allow them to take.

“It gives every kid a first shot at being truant, and if they are, then there can be a manhunt, but no one else would be affected,” Wheeler said.

Councilman Brent Kelly moved to send the ordinance back to the Planning and Zoning Commission to be refined and reworded. Wheeler seconded the motion, and the council voted unanimously to send the ordinance back to the commission.


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