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Washington Post: D.C. mayor’s bill targets truancy, mandates aggressive prosecution

April 3, 2024

Lauren Lumpkin of The Washington Post discusses components of Mayor Bowser’s new truancy bill, Utilizing Partnerships, Local Interventions for Truancy and Safety (UPLIFT) Amendment Act of 2024. The bill, which targets changes in the criminal justice system and schools, comes as elected officials face pressure to address two separate issues hurting children and teens in the District: an increase in violence and alarmingly high truancy rates.

Senior Policy Attorney Danielle Robinette was quoted in the piece, sharing our initial reactions to the bill:

“We are glad that there’s some focus and attention on the issue of school disengagement and absenteeism,” said Danielle Robinette, a senior policy attorney at Children’s Law Center in D.C. “I think the ‘but’ there is that the focus really needs to be on breaking down those barriers. When we’re thinking about commonly reported barriers to attendance, it comes down to things like health-care access, behavioral-health-care concerns, unstable housing, food insecurity, not feeling safe in their communities, not having transportation to begin with.”

Robinette said including the human services agency is a “step in the right direction,” but shared concerns about prosecuting parents — even if it is seen as a last resort. “We’ve looked at jurisdictions across the country and time and time again, best practice is to point away from punitive responses.”

Photo: Craig Hudson for The Washington Post