School attendance in Baltimore City Schools is at record lows. It seems that almost 25% of registered students do not attend classes on a regular basis. The recent numbers reflect a 76% rate of attendance. This is the lowest it has been in 13 years. At the average high school in the area, this can mean hundreds of students each day are not in class.
While attendance is dropping, one thing in the area tied to these same children is suddenly spiking. Youth crime in Baltimore is hitting staggering numbers, and there are many that point to the fact that the low attendance may be directly connected to the increase.
With 24% of kids out of school on any given day, there will of course always be a small number that has legitimate reasons to be gone. There will be students who are sick and those that are out for others reason including things like a doctors visit or dental check-ups. The overwhelming numbers of missing students in these schools are not tied to needed absences. There is a bigger problem at play in the Baltimore City Schools.
According to a report about the recent spike in local crimes, Baltimore City Police Spokesman T.J. Smith shared that there is a direct tie between the spike in violent crime in the area to the fact that more teenagers were simply not attending classes. The most recent teen crimes included violent attacks on Halloween, an extremely violent attempted carjacking that many panicked locals and assault that ended in an adult being thrown into the Inner Harbor. As Smith discussed each of these violent crimes, he explained that:
“…every single one of them involve juveniles, who are all walking the streets today because they are probably not in school, where they belong.”
Many assume that there will be a certain level of both mischief and skipping school for most teens. The overwhelming number of kids missing class every day and the increasingly violent nature of the crimes they see in the area point to the fact that this is not something as simple as kids just being kids. These are brutal crimes with lifelong consequences for both the victims and the suspects.
When we look at the problem of teens not attending school, it is essential to look at the overall environment of the school district. It is easy to place all the blame on the parents, but this may not be appropriate in this case. There have been long-term issues with this particular area ignoring students as they stop coming to class. Locals parents were overwhelmed with anger as they found out that in some cases teachers were passing students that never attended even a single class. It is not clear in a school where students may not need to ever step onto campus to pass their classes if their parents even know they are not in school.
For busy parents, the first sign that a child may be having issues at school is a drop in grades. A new team recently exposed the fact that at least one of the schools in the district was refusing to allow teachers to fail students who were not in class.
Teachers at Calverton High School changed grades so that students passed. In this case, the parents may not have any idea that their student is missing school, as you would assume a student who is passing all their classes is actually going to school. As one teacher explained:
“There were students on my roster all year that I had never met, had never seen. On paper they passed my class and passed onto the next year.
I love my job and I love my students. I want to see the students at Calverton and other schools across the city, get a fresh start. And it’s going to be hard because the students are used to this now. But the students deserve better and our city deserve better.”
It is clear that there is a disconnect at the district level with the issue of students not attending class. One can not expect that students who are allowed to pass classes they never attend will somehow be motivated to attend classes anyway.
For someone outside of the area, it is helpful to know that the 76% attendance rate is far below the area average. Most schools site right at the 90% mark on any given day. There is a huge problem in Baltimore.