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January 23, 2013 / Christian Clansky

Legislation to prosecute parents of truant students…Hospitals straining capacity to help psychiatric patients…Region wants transportation fixes, but doesn’t want to pay [News, 1.23.13]

EDUCATION | D.C. Council member David Catania has introduced legislation that would have parents prosecuted by the Attorney General if their child has missed 20 or more school days. The punishment would be parenting classes or community service and is aimed at combating the city’s very high truancy rate. About 3,000 students miss at least a month of school every year. (WaPo, 1/23) Good idea or bad idea? I like the creative thinking.

FOOD | The Healthcare Initiative Foundation’s Crystal Townsend writes about the work of WRAG’s Convergence Partnership and how addressing local agriculture challenges is critical to implementing a thriving regional food system. (Daily, 1/23)

MENTAL HEALTH | Hospitals in our region and nationwide are cutting back on the number of inpatient beds. As a result, an increasing number of psychiatric patients are being held in emergency rooms – sometimes for days on end. Sensory overload and long wait times can worsen a patient’s mental health crisis. One doctor poignantly warns (WaPo, 1/23):

Emergency doctors are trying to put out fires they can see, and in these patients, there are fires that smolder inside.

LOCAL | On Friday, news broke that D.C. Council member Jim Graham is trying to have himself appointed to the board of the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation,  for which he already has oversight via the council’s human services committee. The Trust’s board chair, Robert Bobb, wrote a letter to Graham expressing his concern about the move and then Graham wrote back. Following the initial back and forth, things have become heated in subsequent letters. (CityPaper, 1/18-23)

HOMELESSNESS | During the inauguration, the District kept homeless shelters open during the day – something unusual save for the coldest days of the year, though this decision was made exclusive of weather concerns. It seems obvious that the move was done for cosmetic reasons (and possibly security ones), but ThinkProgress raises an important point (TP, 1/19):

[T]he question is are they willing to be as generous when the cameras are off and the city isn’t the center of attention? Last year’s city budget, which cut homeless services by $7 million even as the District enjoyed a $140 million surplus, might be an indication.

TRANSIT | A new report from the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board finds that residents are in favor of much-needed transportation improvements but are resistant to the proposed ways of paying for them. (WaPo, 1/23)

COMMUNICATIONS | Here’s a great little article about your organization’s branding. Can you sum up what you do in a short sentence? (Chronicle, 1/18)

EVENT | This afternoon at 2:30, Arabella Advisors is hosting a webinar titled Helping Grantees Build Management Skills. Click here for registration and more information.

Chilled to the bone? Maybe Buster Poindexter can help warm you up! You can dance around your office like a maniac to get the blood flowing. Bonus points for getting coworkers to rumba with you.

Special bonus: what would happen if you took the words to a popular song, used Google to translate the lyrics into another language, and then translated back to English? Something truly hilarious, I assure you.

– Christian


  1. orionadvert003 / Jan 23 2013 5:54 pm

    Tried to post this comment earlier but WP deleted it but I am so angry at Catania’s “idea” that I’m taking the time to repost it. Prosecuting truants or their parents is counter-productive and cruel and will do nothing to bring students back to the classroom. Rather than an adversarial and costly process, why not set up a student-centered education home (like the medical PCMHs) that investigates the causes of the specific family’s issues and develops a holistic solution and follow-up. When kids don’t go to class, it’s not just because the dog ate their homework. There can be all manner of problems they cannot deal with (bullying, abuse, hunger, illiteracy, illness, lack of parental support, etc). A heavy-handed legal action can only hurt the very students it is supposed to help. Catania’s recommendation is neither creative nor useful. It’s just grandstanding.

    • christian clansky / Jan 23 2013 6:24 pm

      Thanks very much for the comment. To clarify my own comment, I mean that forcing parent engagement via school service or parenting education was creative, not the simple idea of prosecution.

      Anyhow, your points are well taken. As the Post’s article notes, truancy isn’t necessarily as simple as bad parenting – especially considering the wide range of family (and other) issues that affect students.

      Your education home idea is a neat one and is certainly validated by the success of medical homes. Any thoughts on how the conversation could be driven in that direction?

      About Catania specifically, I’m not sure whether it is grandstanding or desperation to fight a chronic problem. Maybe both.

      • orionadvert003 / Jan 23 2013 6:50 pm

        “Parent education” is a nice idea but a one-shot class or even several classes does not provide a meaningful service or actionable solution. As for SCEHs, I’d use the PCMH model and create a team of tutors, psychologists, social workers, physicians and others to help both the child and his/her parents identify and treat the issues that keep the student out of class. I’d bring in parents who’ve dealt with this problem and learn from their success, student and parent peer counselors, create a website listing resources and discussion boards–all avenues to help parents and students get heard, validated and helped.

        Maybe the school or the teachers are wholly inept and boring. Maybe the students are afraid to take the bus or walk to school. Maybe the environment is so ugly and depressing that they can’t bear to be in that classroom one more minute.

        Truancy has its roots in poverty and neglect. Let’s start with that.

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