San Diego police have cited and detained more than 300 students for skipping school since June 2017, the majority of which were Hispanic, NBC 7 Investigates found.
NBC 7 Investigates reviewed San Diego Police Department truancy citation data from June 2017 to June 2019. The average age of truant students is 15 years-old, but police also detained an 11 year-old student found off-campus during school hours.
Officers take those students home to their parents or back to their school, where educators place them in special programs designed to reduce truancy.
The data reveals 60 students were detained in the Golden Hill, Mt. Hope and South Park neighborhoods in the 92102 zip code. Police cited 58 students for truancy in City Heights and other parts of the 92115 zip code. Thirty-seven truants were detained in the Otay Mesa area, in the 92154 zip code.
According to the data, Hispanic students accounted for 62 percent of truancy citations - four times the number of white or African-American students detained for skipping class.
“Is that an issue of them being afraid to come to school, or is it a language barrier?” said Felicia Singleton, Director of Student Services and Programs for the San Diego County Office of Education. “What are we missing?”
Singleton called the overall truancy detention data “alarming” but also said it gives educators the ability to “quickly identify who the students are and quickly match them with services that will disrupt the pattern of absenteeism.”
One student with a history of truancy expressed doubt about efforts to reduce truancy.
Christian, who declined to give his last name, often hangs out with other truant students at Colina del Sol Park, near 54th Street and University Avenue in City Heights. He has watched San Diego Police detain truant students and drive them back to Horace Mann Middle School and Crawford High School, across the street from the park.
“Yeah, you take them back and they’ll finish that day,” Christian said. “But the next day, if they don’t want to go, they’ll just go somewhere else other than the place they got caught.”