Impact of daytime curfew undetermined

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 1999

The streets of Natchez may have seemed a little emptier this last month. But whether that’s because of cooler temperatures or because of the city’s new daytime curfew ordinance, officials aren’t sure.

Since the Natchez Police Department began enforcing the daytime curfew on Nov. 1, not a single student has been cited for skipping school, said Police Chief Willie Huff.

&uot;We’re encouraged that we aren’t having to use (the ordinance),&uot; Huff said.

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The daytime curfew, in effect during the school year, prohibits school-age children from being in public places during school hours.

Police have noticed a drop in young people loitering on street corners since the curfew went into effect, but this could be the weather, Huff said.

The Natchez Board of Alderman approved the curfew Oct. 12 as a means of keeping students in school during school hours. If they are not, police are now authorized to pick them up and take them to the police station.

&uot;We view the ordinance as a tool to be used as needed,&uot; Huff said.

Natchez-Adams School District officials hope the curfew motivates students to stay in school. If not, they could be cited for curfew violation.

&uot;I think we did a good job of explaining it to the (children) and the parents,&uot;&160;said Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis.

Under the ordinance, students who are home-schooled, on their way to a work-study program or have another legitimate excuse will not be picked up, Huff said.

Police are still working out how to verify the identity of work-study students and others, he added.

One day last month, police did stop to check on some work-study students seen at a local grocery store. But once police determined their identity they were not detained, Huff said.

If a student is cited for a curfew violation, police will notify the parents, the youth court and their school.

If a child is picked up a second time, the parent will be fined $25 and the fine will increase for additional offenses, Huff said.

Davis added he hopes zero citations means all students are attending school, but he doubts if the district has seen much change in its average daily attendance (ADA) rate.

November’s ADA rate will not be available until next week but the district averaged 94.35 percent in October or 287 absent students daily This is down from 96.2 percent in August.

&uot;Somewhere (around) 96, 97 percent is where you would like to be,&uot;&160;said Assistant Superintendent Larry Little. &uot;I don’t think it’s something you can tell within one month’s time.&uot;

Student illnesses often further decrease the ADA during the winter, Little added.