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DA to Prosecute High School Truants

Publication Date: 
August 13, 2010
The Bay Citizen
Jerry Shih

Emeritus Professor Michael Wald commented on a new effort by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris to prosecute truant high school students. Bay Citizen reporter Gerry Shih filed this story:

High school students who are chronically truant will now be targeted by the San Francisco district attorney under an expansion of an existing program that brings parents of truant students to court.

DA Kamala Harris yesterday announced that her office would go after some 300 students whose frequent absences put them at risk of dropping out and, she argues, of becoming criminals.


Michael Wald, a professor at the Stanford Law School who has served as an academic consultant on the San Francisco project, said that criminalizing truancy has not been widely used by school districts across the nation, and discussion of it has been limited as well. Aside from Colorado and several other local districts around the Bay Area, San Francisco is considered a relative leader in taking the approach.

“Truancy has remained a very low-key issue,” Wald said. “It hasn’t generated national debate in the same way as testing scores or suspension of students.”

Wald said he believed that the prosecutors handling truants, headed by Assistant District Attorney Katherine W. Miller, would only pursue high school students in relatively extreme instances.

“I think it’s only going to be in situations where the parents are frustrated, too,” he said.

Still, Wald said, the policy could affect “a couple thousand kids.”