Beto O'Rourke pledges to decriminalize truancy, address fines on parents

Beto O'Rourke announced Friday that if he won the presidency in 2020, he would work to decriminalize truancy, illegitimate absences from school, and address fines on parents.

"We will also decriminalize truancy," O'Rourke tweeted as part of a thread describing how he would address racial injustice. He argued that truancy and other aspects of the education system disproportionately affected people of color.

"States like Texas have taken the first step by repealing laws that prosecute children for truancy, but the fines their parents face still loom large in a system that disproportionately targets black and brown students. I will take this on."

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Truancy didn't seem to receive a lot of attention in the 2020 cycle, although Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, also a 2020 hopeful, came under fire for supporting an anti-truancy law in her home state. In an interview published in April, she said she regretted the "unintended consequences" of that policy.

“My regret is that I have now heard stories where in some jurisdictions, [District Attorneys] have criminalized the parents. And I regret that that has happened,” she said.

O'Rourke's pledge came as he faced comparatively low poll numbers and fended off perceptions of "privilege." In a series of tweets on Friday, O'Rourke proposed many ideas after lamenting racial disparities in education.

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He also seemed to take aim at Judge Wendy Vitter, one of Trump's judicial nominees who was confirmed on Thursday, by suggesting that she wouldn't uphold the landmark ruling established in Brown v. Board of Education.

"And as president, I will only nominate judges who respect, affirm, and defend Brown v. Board. Andrew Oldham doesn't get nominated," he said, referring to another Trump nominee. "Neither does Wendy Vitter. If you don't believe in civil rights, in equity, in opportunity, you don't belong in a position of public trust."

O'Rourke only received 4 percent of Democratic primary voters' support in a Fox News poll from May 11-14. He attempted to reboot his campaign on Tuesday when he appeared on "The View" and lamented his "Vanity Fair" cover from earlier in 2019.

During that appearance, he decried injustices visited upon minorities and described how he became more aware of his privilege after traveling the country.

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"You're right, there are things that I have been privileged to do in my life that others cannot. And I think the more that I travel and listen to people and listen from them, the clearer that becomes to me," he said.

"When women in this country are paid 80 cents on the dollar that a man makes, African-American women 61 cents, Latinas 53 cents, when you have ten times the wealth in white America than you do in black America, when you have the largest population in prison population on the face of the planet and it is disproportionate to people of color, the systematic foundational discrimination we have in this country in every aspect of life, it's something that I have not experienced in my lifetime."