Keeping "TABS" on Truancy And Crime In TISD

Keeping kids in the classroom and crime down on the streets: It's the focus of a program involving the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas, Tyler Independent School District and the Tyler Police Department.
The program is called TABS or the Truancy Abatement Burglary Suppression program. TISD students caught skipping out on school, end up in Steve Prestridge's office at the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas.
"We like to impress upon them the seriousness of what it means to not go to school and what it could mean for their future," Steve said.
As coordinator of TABS, Steve's focus is on making sure kids are in class every morning. Last week, almost 80 students were called to Truancy Court at the Smith County Juvenile Detention Center.
"Our numbers really speak for themselves," said Prestridge. "Since the program has started the number of students who skip school each year has gone down."
According to the Boys & Girls Club of East Texas, 711 truants came through their program during the 2003-2004 school year.
Nine percent received a second citation, only 2 percent received a third. Truant students in the program are given a fine, a citation, or community service.
"We had about 37 kids out there picking up trash for 4 hours on the side of the highway and they were saying how they did not want to go back how they would go to school from here on out," said Prestridge.
Tyler Police Department Community Response Officer Darrell Gardner said over the past few years, he's seen how the program has helped the city and school district.
"Three or four years ago, we picked up a couple of kids a week," said Officer Gardnery. "I'm on patrol all day long now, and I see very few kids if any kids out during the week."
Steve and Officer Gardner said when kids attend school regularly they are less likely to experiment with drugs or commit a crime. That's something they say is important to parents and the community. During its eight years, TISD officials say the TABS program has been one of many to have a major impact on students.

Maya Golden reporting,