2020 US presidential candidate Kamala Harris is generally unapologetic — it’s a powerful part of her brand. Harris, of course, is a prosecutor by trade and prosecutors aren’t usually into apologies (see: Giuliani, Rudy). But if anything is going to get in Harris’s way after a strong start to kick-off her 2020 presidential campaign, it’s likely the moves she made as a very tough California District Attorney that she’ll have to answer for — especially if the Democratic Party continues to lurch to the left under the fresh charisma of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the stalwart Bernie Sanders crew.
One of the statements Harris made as a prosecutor that is sure to draw interest, if not condemnation from those further left, is that parents of children who repeatedly missed school should be imprisoned. Wait, what? Yes, in fact, that’s what Harris advocated in an appearance on KGO/ABC 7 when she first started becoming familiar to the wider public through big media appearances. (The video is below.)
Keep in mind this was in 2007, ages ago politically, long before Donald Trump was even a bona fide reality TV star — and before gay marriage and the increasingly broad legalization of marijuana and other left-leaning initiatives became widely accepted. When Harris was San Francisco District Attorney she waged a battle against truancy — not rite-of-passage-style playing hooky — but rather “chronic school absenteeism” among middle school and elementary school students. Harris referred to absenteeism rates that reach 50 or 60 days out of 180 days of a school year for many children.
Harris said that her goal was getting these kids into school, not “prosecuting parents.” Because research shows that chronic truancy is a recipe for failure in life, including highly increased chances of ending up a victim of crime or “behind bars.”
However, even if the goal is not prosecuting parents, parental neglect is a big part of the problem. And Harris gave principals a weapon against it. Harris said she gave principals a way to say on the phone to neglectful parents, “Hello, Ms. Smith, Johnny’s not in school and by the way that D.A. Kamala Harris said she might prosecute you and send you to jail.” If the attendance situation doesn’t improve, Harris said, then the “penalty goes up and up and would likely result in that parent being sent to jail.” Harris again stressed that incarceration of parents was not the goal of the program, only an unhappy result at times.