Baltimore students who were murdered or shot had poor school attendance before they fell victim to the violence, according to new data released yesterday by the school system and health department. Between 2003 and 2007, 115 youths in Baltimore were killed, and 405 were victims of non-fatal shootings, Health Department figures show. The school system was able to retrieve attendance data going back to 1999 for 391 of the 520 total victims. The youths were absent from school an average of 46 days annually, and more than two-thirds of them had been suspended or expelled at least once, reports the city’s Sun.
The data are intended to illustrate the public health implications of truancy and suspension as city schools chief Andres Alonso tries to get the entire community involved in improving Baltimore’s educational system. Alonso also is urging principals to find alternatives to suspension for nonviolent offenses to keep students off the streets. “Many, many of our students end up as victims of homicides and shootings, and we see the correlation to the fact that they’re not in school,” Alonso told reporters yesterday. He said what’s happening to those students is “a dereliction of duty” by the community.