New laws proposed by the Ministry of Education will enable city guards (municipal police) to question young people suspected of truancy and report them to school authorities.
In many cities across Poland, city guards have undertaken this task for some time. Lodz authorities since 2000 have had their city guard pursue suspected truants every weekday, and direct them to their respective schools.
This has also been the case in Zabrze, Nysa and Przemysl, though the majority of city guard authorities across Poland have not done so, due to it falling outside their jurisdiction. “The law only allows us to check a person’s identity if they are suspected of committing an offence,” said Zbigniew Maskiewicz vice commandant of the city guard in Piotrkow Trybunalski. “And there is no law that directly states truancy is an offence.”
Commandant of Skierniewice city guard Stanislaw Krawczyk says “If young people are sitting on a park bench and not creating a disturbance, there is no reason to check their identity, let alone make an arrest.”
The Ministry of Education believes the new policing activity will increase the safety of students. “Our aim is to counteract truant behavior,” said Ministry of Education representative Anna Zadan. “Flagrant truancy is demoralizing for the general student population.”
School principals are supportive of the proposed changes. “Each new initiative in this direction acts as a further deterrent to truant behavior,” said Principal Katarzyna Felde of High School Four in Lodz.
Others are more skeptical about the effect on young peoples’ perception of school and society. The decision about attending school is taken away from young people says Tomasz Grzyb a psychologist from Wroclaw. “There is little emphasis on school providing opportunities for their future. It is represented in this law as more of a punishment,” said Grzyb. Maciej Osuch, a social pupil rights officer, is terrified by the Ministry of Education initiative. He thought the new government would make schools more inviting for students. Osuch believes city guards pursuing students is sending the wrong message, “What does this say about Polish schools? It makes our schools look like prisons. Next there will be a curfew for young people,” said Osuch.