September 16, 2014

Elyria
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Council drops daytime curfew

ELYRIA —  The possibility of enacting a daytime curfew appears to be over.

Councilman Forrest L. Bullocks, D-2nd Ward, said he heard enough from the 40 or so who attended a Council committee Wednesday night to convince him it’s not a Council problem.

It was Bullocks who had brought the possible law to the table — saying he kept hearing from folks concerned because they saw youngsters wandering around during the day — but it quickly garnered opposition from police Chief Michael Medders and Elyria High School Principal Dianne Quinn.

 “I think the consensus was that this is a school district issue, not a City Council issue,” Bullocks said.

Councilman Kevin Krischer, I-5th Ward, said he understood the issue from both sides.

He is sick of Elyria High School students loitering and littering in front of his Fifth Street house. But that doesn’t mean he thought a daytime curfew would help.

The problem, he said, is that he wasn’t convinced a curfew during school hours would be enforceable or that Elyria police would have time to chase down violators. He also said parents should be doing more to teach their children responsibility.

Quinn said it would overwhelm police to try and figure out which students are violators who are not supposed to be outside the building.

There are many students who have late arrival, early dismissal and home lunch privileges. Even more get to leave to attend classes at the Lorain County Joint Vocational Center and Lorain County Community College, she said.

She acknowledged that there are a few who break the rules, she said.

“The kids you see out smoking in your yard aren’t bad kids. They just don’t have the same value system as other kids,” she told Krischer.

The schools try to find ways to help those students break negative habits, Quinn said, but a daylight curfew wouldn’t work as a deterrent.

To ease crowding in the school cafeteria, upperclassmen are allowed — with parental permission — to visit area restaurants for lunch. Those students wear color-coded tags that staffers can readily identify.

But Chris Baker of South Elyria Neighborhood Development said many people, especially the elderly, are intimidated when they see a group of students on a sidewalk or huddling under business overhangs to stay out of the rain.

 “While Burger King may be benefiting, other businesses are not,” she said. “I think what kids need is structure. They need discipline. They need guidance.”

Medders said there’s no crime spike during school hours, and his officers already have the power to rein in school-skippers for being delinquent and unruly.

His officers, he said, simply can’t sit outside of EHS at all times to serve as truant officers.

“Kids skipping is pretty low on the priority list compared to somebody getting injured somewhere else,” he said.

Parent Holly Huff said she often counts 10 to 30 students walking away from the high school early in the morning before attendance is taken, and she’s even seen a security guard handing out cigarettes to teens — a guard who Quinn said no longer works at the school.

Huff favors a daytime curfew, saying police need not call it into use all day, every day. Rather, it could give Elyria police extra bite when dealing with truant students.

In Amherst, she said, parents are given a $50 fine every time police have to drive a skipper to school.

But a daylight curfew could have grave consequences for students who don’t attend public schools, said Kurt Anderson, an attorney who home-schools his children.

Anderson belongs to a co-op of about 60 home-school families and told the committee that a curfew would criminalize his children because they don’t stick to a normal schedule.

“We’re operating from a presumption of guilt — that if you’re out during school hours you must be up to no good unless you can prove otherwise,” he said.

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.