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Number of complaints made in Police Court against
parents refusing to send children to school....1328 Number of complaints from principals of private schools ...
216 Number of notices received from Factory Inspector 41 Number of boys arrested for truancy.
I 20 Number of girls arrested for truancy.
The above figures still do not give an exact idea of the total amount of truancy in the city. They must be taken merely as a convenient, but rough, index. It. depends largely upon the discretion and scruples of teachers and principals whether the children shall be reported as truants, not. In some child
may be out of school several days, or even a week, without being reported. A case of this kind now comes to mind. I noticed one of the boys I happened to know sulking about the streets for two or three days. On enquiring why he was not in school, he told me that his mother had kept him home to help her, and that in a few days he was "going to get a job on G street”. I suspected him of truancy, and so telephoned the Lieutenant of the Truant Squad to ask if the case had been reported. He said that no report had been received; but that the case would be looked into. In the meantime I went to the school to find out what I could there. The principal confessed she did not know the boy had been absent until that very morning. In going through the rooms she missed the boy from his accustomed place, and on enquiring of the teacher in charge the reason of his absence received the reply that some of the other children had said that the boy was quite sick. The teacher had thought it not worth while to report the case. By the time the truant officers had served a notice on the mother of the truant boy, he had been out of school for over a week. This is not an isolated case, but typical of others which frequently occur. Almost any day in early spring and summer, groups of two or three boys can be seen during school hours loitering about the streets of the poorer districts, or frequenting the water-front. I have caught as many as twenty such boys fishing in the river on a fine spring afternoon.
There must be some reason why so many children break the bounds of school and home and wander into the ranks of truants. We have considered at some length in another part of this study a few of the more important causes of truancy and juvenile delinquence. It remains here to consider what the public schools are doing to counteract this tendency in the growing children. It is unnecessary to describe in detail the organization and methods of instruction in our public schools. Enough is known to assure us that, on the whole, they are doing a splendid work. The public school should be the pride of every American citizen. It is to be feared, however, that too much stress is being put upon literary instruction-the three R's, if you will—and not enough upon the training of eye and hand for future usefulness. A thorough elementary education is absolutely essential; but systematic instruction in manual training should also be given to that large number of boys and girls compelled to leave school at an early age to work in the shops and factories. There can be no doubt that many a boy loses interest in school because he does not see in the studies pursued any direct application to the practical hand work which he, sooner or later, must take up. Much truancy may result from such lack of interest.
Where manual training has been tried it has proved eminently successful in reclaiming boys who would have otherwise been truants. Simple wood-working, irontwisting, or forge work, would interest many a wayward boy. Domestic science would appeal more to the girls. It is to be hoped that manual training and domestic science will gradually be introduced as working features into every public and private school. Steps have already been taken along the above lines in some of the Detroit schools; but the scope of the work should be enlarged, especially in the poorer districts, and at the truant school.
Let us look for a moment at the legal machinery in force for the treatment of truants. The Compulsory Education Act provides :
"That in cities having a duly organized police force, it shall be the duty of the police authorities, at the request of the school authorities, to detail one or more members of such police force to perform the duties of truant officer, providing that nothing herein shall be construed as prohibiting a city board of education from appointing any citizen not a police officer as truant officer.''*
According to the first part of this clause the police department of Detroit detailed four policemen under the direction of a Lieutenant to look after juvenile offenders and see that the compulsory school law is enforced. The provision for truant officers not under the jurisdiction of the police department has, so far as is known, never been taken advantage of by the school authorities. This has limited somewhat the good that might have been accomplished by truant officers not appointed by the police department.
Section 3 of the Act specifically states that:
"It shall be the duty of the truant officer (whenever notified by the teacher or other persons of violations of this act) to investigate all cases of truancy or non-attendance at school and render all service
*Compiled Laws, No 4847; Act 95, 1895; Amended 1901, Act 83.
within his power to compel children to attend school,
It is seen, therefore, that the enforcement of the Compulsory Education Act is almost wholly in the hands of the Truant Squad. School teachers, principals and other citizens should report promptly all truancy cases if the law is to be carried out with good effect. A great deal depends upon discovering and treating truancy in its inception.
Furthermore the law provides that:
“In all city school districts in this State having a school census of five hundred or more pupils, the school board or officers having in charge the schools of such districts may establish one or more ungraded schools for the instruction of certain children (children cities between , the ages of 7 and 16 years classed as juvenile disorderly persons). They may, through their truant officer and superintendent of schools, require such children to attend said ungraded schools, or any department of their graded schools as said Board of Education may direct."20
Under the above provision the Board of Education created in Detroit an ungraded school. It occupies
three or four unattractive rooms in what used to be an
19Compiled Laws, 1897; No. 4849. Amended 1901, Act 83. 20Ibid, No. 4850. Amended 1901, Act 83.
old German Academy at No. 251 Champlain street. A principal and two teachers look after the interests of the wayward boys. For the past two or three years only boys have been brought here, there being no public ungraded school suitable for truant or disorderly giris. The provisions at the school are inadequate to meet fully the needs of truant children. Manual training of some sort should by all means be introduced. More attractive quarters should be provided, and the most advanced methods of instruction, under thoroughly competent teachers, applied to teaching the boys. Some provision ought also be made for truant girls. The principal of such school should have a great deal of discretion as to the disposition of children coming under his care. As it now is the principal's duties are largely clerical.
The various charities of the city give their aid for the most part to neglected and dependent children. It is unnecessary to set forth a list of the activities of the charities which apply directly or indirectly to the care of such children. It should be said that the agents of some of the societies are also interested in delinquent children, and make it a point to aid them when possible, but the bulk of their work is with the other classes.
PUNITIVE AND REFORMATORY TREATMENT.
It must be admitted that in the treatment of her neglected, dependent and delinquent children Michigan stands for some of the most advanced and logical methods. The placing-out system in the State aims to reduce the number of children retained in large institutions and place them in a more natural and healthy environment. The appointment by the Governor of a County Agent for each county in the State, whose duty