POLITICS

Kamala Harris Defends Anti-Truancy Efforts After Expressing Regret Parents Were Punished

The senator has often said her district attorney's office never jailed parents of truant kids. But she left out some context during a 2020 candidate town hall.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) defended her anti-truancy efforts in the state of California during a CNN town hall on Monday night less than a week after saying she regretted the “unintended consequence” of some parents being punished under a statewide law she helped pass in 2011.

When asked if there were any other laws or policies she regretted from her time as a prosecutor and how she would remedy them as president, Harris went back to vigorously defending her anti-truancy efforts as district attorney of San Francisco. 

“Let me be clear: I absolutely believe that children have and should be thought of to have a constitutional right to an education. Period,” said Harris.

“I took the issue on,” she added. “What we’ve got to do is pay attention to the fact that these children aren’t in school and put all the resources necessary to get them in school. And give their parents the resources, hold the school districts accountable. Why aren’t the school districts raising the alarm and putting all the resources possible into getting these kids to school every day?”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) championed an anti-truancy law in California.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) championed an anti-truancy law in California.

Harris has long been adamant that her office never jailed parents of truant kids. But she left out some important context during the town hall series for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The law Harris championed in front of the California Legislature in 2011, just as she was running for state attorney general, imposed harsher penalties on truant parents than the one she used in San Francisco. Under the new law, parents or guardians of students in kindergarten through the eighth grade who missed 10% of the school days without a valid excuse could be fined a minimum of $2,500 or face a year in jail.   

After HuffPost profiled an Orange County mother who was arrested under the 2011 law, Harris said she regretted the fact that parents were arrested.

“My regret is that I have now heard stories where in some jurisdictions, DAs have now criminalized the parents,” Harris said in an interview with “Pod Save America.”

She added: “And I regret that that has happened and the thought that anything that I did could have led to that.”

CONVERSATIONS