San Diego Law Library Partners with District Attorney’s Office to Fight Truancy

By Benita on February 14, 2014//Leave a comment

Written by Cyndi Jo Means, Deputy District Attorney, Truancy Team Leader, San Diego District Attorney’s Office


In September, 2013, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a report making Truancy a priority in our state. To that end, the District Attorney’s Office has been providing Truancy Mediation Clinics at the San Diego Law Library since November, 2012. The program started in South Bay with Chula Vista Elementary School District. It has now expanded to the Vista and East County branches of the Law Library, with Mediations taking place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week. At this time, all East County Schools, the majority of North County Schools, two South Bay Schools, and San Diego Unified School District are participating, with additional school districts requesting the program.  Deputy District Attorney Cyndi Jo Means, Truancy Team Leader for the San Diego Truancy Team Collaboration, runs the Mediations, which include a school district representative and parents and children of truant families. 


The goal of the Mediations is to “even the playing field” and give all parties an opportunity to discuss issues affecting the child’s truancy, and come up with a plan, agreeable to all, to solve the problem. The program has been tremendously successful, with the majority of families – most with truancy issues going back several years — turning things around after 30 days!! After the initial Mediation, families return for “progress updates,” with Mediation Agreements added-to, or changed, if necessary. For successes, children and families receive gift cards, provided with funding authorized by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.


The Mediations are also an encouragement and support for the families, with some choosing to return, even when they “don’t have to.” As Vista Law Librarian Cheryl Weeks-Frey has noticed: “The families come in angry, and they leave smiling.”

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  1. RJ Gardner

    Tuesday afternoon, February 18th, 2014


    Today I am reading your email newsletter article titled “San Diego Law Library Partners with District Attorney’s Office to Fight Truancy,” and being a man of opinion, it is decided to add a comment of my own. The recent success appear to be working, but for how long.

    No one will get anywhere in reducing “truancy” of school children until those same children can see there is a good reason to remain in school. As adults, having “graduated” from childhood to what we now are, and some of us having done rather well in the world, we expect others to do exactly the same. Hard work required, often yes, but allegedly it can be duplicated by others, easily enough, if they want to do it and then set themselves to the task in accomplishing it.

    But apparently we as adults also can’t remember what it was like to be in school during those frustrating years, so we cannot understand why anyone would have a reason to “ditch school,” knowing it will limit them to a lousy and low paying job with no other future but to remain at the bottom of the social employment structure.

    But these truant children do have a reason, and one of them is: “What’s the use in staying in school, when there aren’t any jobs for us anyway?”

    Getting a good education makes sense to most of us, even if some of those same truant lower class people’s opinion of education means being “too Establishment,” too pro-government, too-majority-rule, thus anti-their own racial people. That’s how they think, regardless of complex university-trained minds concluding to the contrary.

    But it will do no one any good to compel or induce returning to school if there are not jobs available to apply that advanced knowledge, even if it is merely a high school diploma, something being more and more useless as time goes on.

    Another reason for truant children to ditch school is whether they are in fact and in evidence smart enough to go on to college. Not everyone can do that, even if financially capable of it. College educations requires more than merely “good grades”; it needs a naturally bestowed higher intellect than many truant students have. We must come to grips with this reality: not everyone is “college material.” Truants know that, also. But they do need jobs. And there is the main and massively abrasive rub.

    The students of concern here are probably not those of more than the lower-class to lower-middle-class in society, a miserable lot to occupy, yet there they are, nonetheless. They are those whose station in life is not “college material.” And they know it. Don’t kid yourself: they know how smart they are, and they also know how not so smart they themselves really are. And how many of those truant students have a superior mind sufficient to continue to higher learning? Not so many. Worse is for those who do: no jobs, regardless of hype.

    To toss at them the gossamer assertion that “we all need a college education to get a job” is to torment those young people, especially those who know they have no such intellectual capacity. We are Not all the same. They know it; “we” don’t.

    Add to that is how our Western Civilization has become so technically advanced that modern machinery and robotics and computers have replaced the necessity for physically present and employable manpower. Machines do nearly everything. Our superior society has gotten to where even intelligent, well-educated students and once long-employed, now laid-off workers cannot find either adequate or any work. So advance we are, that we have essentially all but put even ourselves out of work. Where shall the lower classes find work now?

    Look also at how many thousands upon thousands of college and university students graduate every year, burdened with massive student debt, only to find there are either no jobs available for them in their chosen field fo study, or few jobs and low paying ones at that, considering the over-production of applicants. These compete with the lesser intellect, merely to find work.

    Now consider again the plight of the truant, particularly those whose intellect or social station holds them back, no matter how long they remain in school, no matter hard they try to get a job. What future could any student of the “truancy” level social status have, when confronted with a society which demands remaining in school, demands high intellect and higher education, yet has no jobs for them. So far out of reach, all this is for them. We can’t help our own children, let alone those of lesser intellect yet capable of those “entry level” jobs where they may never rise above that point.

    Look at how high up this unemployment problem reaches. As an amusing Irving Younger said decades ago, I squandered the flower of my middle age in the law libraries (and look what it got me!). Yet in the early to late 1980’s I remember when the downtown S.D. Law Library’s California Room was filled with lawyers, and paralegals, and judges, too, each using the Library’s capacity for research. And soon after, I remember seeing one law office after another lay off scores of its attorneys in one fast hit, partly economic, but more so when Lexus and West-Law came along. The library became like a ghost-town, with everyone remaining in their law offices, using online search engines. Who needed the Law Library anymore?

    Look at how many law offices and courts since then have laid-off even more lawyers, and paralegals, because of those massive “time-&-labor saving” abilities of legal search-engine programs, which so quickly find what is wanted; and how many secretaries and clerks, now gone, because a computer can make and file pleadings in no time at all, and print out an entire pleading in the time one secretary can type out a single page.

    Not even these people of considerable skill are immune, and how many can find real work these days. How much worse, to be one of low intellect or of disadvantaged economic circumstances, there being so, so many of them, and yet looking for work, except to maybe find one, in the lowest of nearly minimum wage jobs among employers who have little to gain by paying more.

    Economist also are more than aware that by having a plentiful supply of “un-employed” and “under-employed” standing outside the work place means hired workers will have to compete for a job, even to accepting lower, and ever lower, pay. Too-many employed means workers will be able to ask for better pay because of so few others available to take their place when quitting for another better-paying job. Keeping the lower classes out of the work force is to the advantage of “business.” Compare this malevolent strategy to the often lower class truant students’ future.

    Why stay in school, when nothing is gained by it? For them, the obvious conclusion is: it’s better to be a gangster, and find a better paying life in crime and drugs, or do-time in prison where they get fed and clothed, than to starve being honest on the Outside, forever sidelined.

    This is the situation you face there in San Diego, and anywhere else in America: we are so smart, o’yes, so smart, that we outsmarted even ourselves. The children now endure the technological sins of their fathers, just as OT Scripture said they would then and do now. These are very desperate times. And how is all this to be resolved? There will never be a plan agreeable to all. Simply throwing more money and programs at it with pronounced rhetoric will not solve anything, either. Nor do I envy those who would seek a solution to this increasing problem.

    Thanks for taking the time to let me bend your ear with my opinion upon this nearly unsolvable matter.

    • JohnnyZ

      Wow, RJ, you had your thinking cap on when you wrote that! Thanks for taking the time to speak out and write so eloquently on a very tough subject.
      Since we as the law library cannot do much in the way of changing our culture or legal system, we have forwarded your comments to the DA’s office. We hope they consider your ideas and give you a response.

      Thanks for weighing in!


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