Groups work to keep kids in school, crime down

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Education can mean the difference between a life of crime and being successful, and through the Helping Montgomery Families Initiative and work by city and school leaders and the district attorney’s office, more children are staying in school.

HMFI released information Monday during a news conference at Vaughn Road Elementary School that showed their work during the past school year is paying off through the Truancy Intervention Program and the suspension prevention program.

HMFI creates a partnership with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, Montgomery Public Schools, the city and more than 50 community organizations to provide intervention and prevention services for suspended students. Together they help families get their children back in school, succeed in classes and graduate.

TIP focuses to increase attendance in schools by getting youth off the streets and keeping them out of juvenile court.

Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said he has found that young people who drop out of school are more inclined to participate in criminal activity.

“The lack of education and high school diplomas among our youth is a public safety issue,” Bailey said. “… I did a random sampling of 25 out of the 50 murders that we had last year and all 25 of those defendants of those murders had one characteristic in common. They were dropouts.”

Bailey said he will prosecute those who turn to a life of crime. However he has another important role. Keep children in schools to create a safer city. One aspect of the program is to make sure youths who have initial brushes with the law stay in school and graduate.

HMFI conducted research that showed out of 218 youths who completed the program between 2008 and 2013, 75 percent had no further involvement with the justice system and their cases were closed.

According to Sandra Edwards, HMFI director, the program exceeded its goals.

The Truancy Intervention Program has decreased the number of overall unexcused absences by 15 percent and improved attendance in 38 schools during the 2013-2014 school year, according to HMFI.

Likewise, HMFI’s suspension program was able to decrease overall suspension by 15 percent and serious disciplinary infraction suspensions by 15 percent.

District resource officers with MPS visited 775 homes to help guardians and parents get their children to attend school.

These are trends they would like to continue into the 2014-2015 school year, officials said.