Can Big Brother Stop Truancy in Schools?

"Seventy percent of folks in our jail system have not graduated high school, and 90 percent of all our inmates begin their court appearances in truancy court," Lopez said. "This is an opportunity to reach these kids before it begins."

Those statics aren't just seen in Texas, according to the National Center for School Engagement. In Florida, the 5,000 of the state's most serious juvenile offenders were analyzed in 1991 and 1993 and excessive truancy was one of three traits they had most in common. In North Miami Beach, when a truancy center was opened to pick up school aged youth during school hours vehicle burglaries decreased by 22 percent.

Of 85 juveniles convicted of murder in New York State between 1978 and 1986, over 57 percent had a history of truancy, and nationwide data collected from 28 communities between 1980 and 2000 showed truant 8th graders were 4.5 times more likely than regular school attenders to smoke marijuana.

According to the center, truancy is a national epidemic that more often than not leads to students dropping out of high school. In 1997 41 percent of prison inmates had not graduated high school, and the average dropout costs more than $200,000 in criminal justice costs in their lifetime, the Center reports. The 2000 census showed that high school dropouts had a 52 percent employment rate compared with 71 percent for high school graduates.

"We get these kids back in school, and back on track," Knox said.

According to Knox, in the six cities and 26 schools the program was implemented in for the spring of 2009, the AIM program achieved a 98 percent attendance rate with participating students, and one month following the program students were maintaining a 97 percent attendance rate.

The program hasn't been without controversy. According to Lopez some parents were against the idea of their child being monitored with a GPS device in the beginning; however he said the majority have since embraced the program.

The Texas chapter of the ACLU isn't totally sold on the program yet because of the use of the GPS device.

"We have concerns about it perhaps being used by people who don't have the best interest of the children in mind," Dotty Griffith, from the ACLU's Texas branch said. "What's stopping someone from hacking in to see where the kids are when they aren't in school? We're always concerned about privacy and safeguards."

Dooley said AIM is constantly improving and updating their system as they expand and grow and they always have the student's privacy and best interests in mind.

"As soon as we explain the program to these families and they know exactly what this is about, there is almost a sigh of relief," he said.

Debbie Troncoso said she's relieved, after Jose completed his six-week course last month his attendance has remained steady and his commitment to school has transformed.

"He actually likes to go to school now, we have no problem with him going to school at all," she said.

"I'm proud of him, he's going the right way now, instead of the wrong way," Debbie said.

For Jose, the right way may now bring him to receive his high school diploma, something the 15-year old said he never planned on getting before.

"This has made a huge difference in my life," Jose said. "The program opened up my eyes, and showed me what school is all about."

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