|For Immediate Release
Oct. 1, 2009
Contact: John Hall, PIO (951) 955-8662
NEW 'TRUANCY AND SAFE SCHOOLS COURT' PROGRAM
TO DEBUT IN SAN JACINTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
RIVERSIDE - The first session of Truancy and Safe Schools Court will be held at 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009, at the Hemet Courthouse, 880 N. State St., Hemet.
According to statistics and studies, one in five students in Riverside County and one in three
students in California drops out of school. The dropout rate in 2008 was 16 percent in San
Jacinto and nearly 18 percent in Riverside County. And it is estimated that 75 percent of
prisoners incarcerated in California were high school dropouts.
The goal of this new program is to decrease school truancy while also increasing campus
safety and improving the attendance, grades and good behavior of students within the San
Jacinto Unified School District. This is a pilot program which is expected to expand
throughout Riverside County in the future.
Previous to this new program, students issued particular citations - such as for truancy,
alcohol or marijuana consumption, fighting or bullying - would be sent to traffic court. Now,
they will attend an afternoon session of Truancy and Safe Schools Court where a school
district representative will be present to assist the court in crafting a rehabilitation plan to
place each student on track toward graduation.
"The court is very concerned about the school dropout rate and the effect on the
community," said Judge Thomas Cahraman, presiding judge of Riverside County Superior
Court. "Students who are currently skipping school, getting in fights and otherwise
misbehaving are at risk of dropping out and also affect the other students in the school. By
setting an afternoon aside to work with students who may be at risk of dropping out, we
hope to be able to get their attention and focus them on obtaining their high school
In this new program, the court will place violators on court probation for a year while
continuing to use disciplines already in place such as community service, fines and the
writing of essays. But now the court will also be able to refer students to angermanagement
classes, counseling and other mediation.
If a student then fails to attend school or comply with the terms of probation, the court will
suspend that student's driver's license -- a punishment which seems to work well with
"The San Jacinto Unified School District is extremely pleased and honored to participate in
this program at the ground level," said Connie Polhemus, coordinator II of community and
child support for the district. "This is a very powerful program and we are already seeing an
impact on students we have not been able to reach before."
Deputy District Attorney Raquel Marquez said, "The program's first goal is to promote and
maintain a safe school climate. The second goal is to provide early intervention for truancy
and other at-risk behaviors, which will increase the graduation rate within the school district
and will also result in a reduced crime rate within the community."
"We are pleased to have this opportunity to collaborate with other agencies in a real way to
reduce truancy in our schools and crimes rates in our communities by utilizing existing
resources without costing the taxpayers any money," Marquez said.
Other school districts across Riverside County are expected to begin participating in the
program over the next few months.
"Our pledge from the Riverside County office of Education to our stakeholders is that all
students in Riverside County will graduate from high school well-prepared for college and
the workforce," said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenn Young. "This
outstanding collaboration within the District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Department, the
court and individual school districts gives us the opportunity for early intervention and to
redirect students from their current pathway of becoming a dropout and onto the road that
leads to graduation and lifelong success."
Agencies working together in this program include: the Riverside County Superior Court, the
Riverside County Probation Department, the Riverside County Office of Education, the
Riverside County Sheriff's Department, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, the
San Jacinto Unified School District and the San Jacinto Police Department.