Youth Leader, Businesses Crack Down on Truancy

Chatham County Youth Commission director Van Johnson is on a mission, walking through downtown Savannah, looking for red anti-truancy signs.

"Some businesses are committed to it," he said. "They understand the concept. For us, this is important, because they understand the reason why we are doing it."

More than a month ago, students with the youth commission asked local businesses to post the signs in their windows to help crack down on kids skipping school (Youth Commission Campaigns Against Truancy). The flyers say truant kids are not wanted in the store during school hours, and if they were caught, the owner would call police. Some have kept their promise, others haven't.

To those which have taken their signs down, Johnson has this to say: "Shame on you."

At least 80 percent of businesses which took the signs have kept them up in their windows, and owners say in just a month they have already seen these posters make a difference.

"I feel it's working," said Laurie Schimdt, manager at Debbie's Restaurant. "I don't see many kids out of school at lunch or breakfast time."

Sassy Nail owner June Dang says kids don't bother to step foot inside her store any more during the school day. "They ask me, 'Why did you put that up? You're going to lose business if we don't come in,'" she said. "I told them, 'That's fine. I'd rather you get a high school education than get your nails done during school hours.'"

Johnson says the businesses that have the signs up keep the whole community on alert for truant kids.

"Let young people know there are eyes all over the community watching them," said Johnson. "If they are not in school, then somebody's going to be making a phone call."

If businesses have changed their minds and would like to post these signs, they can call the Chatham County Youth Commission at 652.7964.

We did try to talk to the businesses which posted the signs, then took them down, but they refused to comment.

Reported by: Melanie Ruberti,