A Hard Pass on Daytime Curfews


Isabella Loggins and Za'Niya Cline

Truancy is a common problem with schools in America. Tuscaloosa officials recently discussed discouraging truancy by imposing a daytime curfew, and though the desired result is understandable, it will be hard to enforce and the consequences seem too drastic.

According to The New York Times, “Up to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school.” Absenteeism and tardiness is a problem in many schools, and it’s hard to argue with that. 

The Tuscaloosa daytime curfew would last from  9:00 am to 2:30 pm, Monday through Friday, while school is in session. If a child is caught skipping, their parents will be contacted by authorities and fined up to $500 or even receive possible jail time. Tuscaloosa is not the first city to propose a day time curfew. Other cities like Kennesaw, GA, Burbank, California, and Dallas, Texas have all proposed daytime curfews as well. Actually, if you visit youthrights.org, you can see that most states have some sort of curfews for teens, and there are quite a few daytime curfews. 

With the combination of daytime and nighttime curfews, there are many school days in which teens are only allowed to be out in public for 8-12 hours each day– a few hours before school and a few hours after school. Brandon Smith, a sophomore, said, “I understand where they’re coming from a safety standpoint, but being confined to one’s home might make some students more rebellious.”

The law also prompts the question of how they will enforce it. Tuscaloosa News states, “ The daytime curfew law also won’t apply to certain minors, such as those who are homeschooled, participating in online classes or a dual enrollment program or attends a school that is not in session.” How would they enforce that law? A teen could  get caught skipping and just say that they’re a homeschooled student. Will there be some form of identifying paperwork? Will it be easily forgeable? 

Although it’s understandable for Tuscaloosa officials to want students to learn and stay in school, there are many “what-if’s” and loopholes. What if an older teen who drives is needed in a family emergency? What if a teen has parental permission? What if a low-income family can’t afford the fine? 

The consequences of breaking the law also seem to be too drastic. Alabama News states, “City Attorney Glenda Webb says the penalties could include up to a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.” A fine that high will cause nothing but more complaints. Since the students aren’t expected to have that much money on hand, it can be assumed that the parent will have to pay the fine. Teens usually skip without the knowledge of their parents. It is not their fault, and they surely should not be held responsible for their children’s actions. Although parents can influence their children, they don’t have full surveillance over them every day. Also, giving a teen or parent jail time for missed school seems contrary to the value of education and the value of family. 

 At the end of the day, this law has good intentions, but when put in place, the outcomes could be worse than simply missing school. Though it might be enforced as early as January in Tuscaloosa, we hope that Madison will find other ways to positively support student attendance and to ensure our police officers are spending their time chasing criminals, not teens.