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Drop-outs more likely to commit crimes
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There exists a non-profit, non-governmental organization named "Fight Crime, Invest in Kids," whose objective, according to its declared mission, is to "take a hard look at the research about what prevents kids from becoming criminals and put that information in the hands of policymakers and the general public." Among other things, like the prevention of child abuse, child neglect and gang involvement, "Fight Crime, Invest in Kids" focuses on the role of education in the lives of young people. It seeks to steer kids away from crime by preparing them for careers and life in general through education.

"Fight Crime, Invest in Kids" has the support and participation of "thousands of top executive law enforcement leaders and survivors of violence. Top executive law enforcement leaders include: chiefs of police, sheriffs, elected or appointed prosecutors; attorneys general, and the presidents of law enforcement organizations." It is a formidable, well-intended organization that crosses political lines and strives to make society safer.

Statistics support the assertion that young people with incomplete or no education are more likely to be involved in crime. In a recent report from the organization, "California faces a dropout crisis that poses a threat to public safety." According to them, one out of three students does not graduate from high school "on time." California's high school dropout rate has been at approximately 20 percent these last two years, and in Massachusetts, the dropout rate was below three percent.

High school dropouts are more than three times more likely to be arrested than their educated counterparts. Of the inmates in state prison, 68 percent of them did not graduate from high school, and dropouts are eight times more likely to end up in prison or jail. These are staggering statistics, and unfortunately, these reflect people - not mere numbers. Many of these young people face dismal lives, are more likely to suffer low self-esteem and feel less power when functioning in the society's mainstream. The fact that high school dropouts are more crime prone is, by itself, a big problem to public safety. Children of dropouts are also less likely to complete their grade school educations, let alone go on to college or higher level trade schools.

It is known that kids who have sporadic class attendance patterns are often headed for completely dropping out of school. Poor attendance is easily documented and does not go unnoticed by parents and school officials, so not only is intervention possible, but it is almost immoral to not act on it. The deciding factor, quite often, is whether the parents are prepared to see the problem through. Parents themselves must create the expectation that failing to go to school is not an option. It has to be a high priority for the family, worthy of any reasonable sacrifices that must be made to ensure each child attends school regularly.

The high school dropout statistics for California are clear, just like the resultant problems and predictability of how the lives of most dropouts can be marginalized. Of course, there are many exceptions to the failure statistics. There are many stories of self-made millionaires and other successful persons who did not complete high school - but these are the exceptions. What is not clear is what to do about the problem. With California's 20 percent dropout rate, it is fair to say that the system itself is not living up to what is necessary.

Educators face a multi-lingual student population, many classrooms have too many students because of inadequate funding for the schools, many students come from economically deprived families, making it necessary for them to work in addition to, or instead of going to school. The entertainment industry also does things to undermine the education objective by making drug-running gangs look like an attractive alternative, teenage pregnancy makes school attendance difficult, and the list of factors affecting school attendance goes on.

For sure, we need to reverse this alarming trend where one in five students never completes high school. These statistics are translating into a huge obstacle for the quality and productivity of our state's population. As we are now positioned, the problem of having a high dropout rate will get worse, not better, so we need to do whatever is necessary to correct the problem.