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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Chase Truant Children

Teachers at the secondary school in the village of Kugeyevo in the Volga River republic of Chuvashia had almost forgotten what seventh-grader Pavlik Spiridonov looked like.

The 14-year-old had missed more than 200 classes, almost half the required classes in the first half of this school year, running from September to December.

Although he may not yet be an ideal pupil, he now makes it to the classroom regularly, thanks to district prosecutors who are hunting down truant children in an effort to cut down on juvenile crime.

In Kugeyevo, a village of some 200 houses and a school where 99 children study, prosecutors this month tracked down Spiridonov and seven other boys who had forgotten the way to school.

School principal Yury Vasilyev said he only welcomes the prosecutors' unusual interest in school attendance.

"It is good when the authorities do at least something. We could not force them to attend classes, anyway," Vasilyev said in a telephone interview from Kugeyevo on Saturday.

But prosecutors said education is not their main concern.

"The educational process is not in our competence, of course, but crime prevention is," said Irina Semyonova, an aide to Chuvashia's regional prosecutor, Sergei Zaitsev, who ordered his subordinates in the districts to keep track of school attendance and students' grades. "Instead of going to school the kids usually hang out in the markets or other hangouts where they are an easy prey for adult offenders," Semyonova said. "None of them has been seen in the library while skipping classes."

Task forces made up of prosecutors and psychologists were set up in the republic in 2001, but the first positive results came only at the end of last year when prosecutors registered a 40 percent drop in the juvenile crime rate, Semyonova said.

Tatyana Suvorova of the prosecutor's office in the Mariinsky Posad district, which includes Kugeyevo, said children who skip classes usually have a criminal record and bringing them back to the classroom can prevent them from committing new crimes. "It just so happens that those who have bad grades and do not attend classes have been caught in theft and hooliganism or noticed in suspicious company," Suvorova said by telephone from Mariinsky Posad.

District Prosecutor Yury Stepanov visited Kugeyevo last week to meet with truant children and their parents. Eight families were issued warnings for not looking after their offspring properly.

"We came across parents who were totally unaware and, what is more, indifferent to what their children do during the day," said Suvorova, who coordinates the work of the task force in her district.

For now, the parents of truant children will only be issued warnings, but if the children continue to skip class, the parents can and will be fined, she said.

A spokesman for Chuvash President Nikolai Fyodorov said he would not comment on the regional prosecutor's interest in school attendance since the prosecutor reports to the Prosecutor General's Office.

"Since his appointment in 2001, our prosecutor has been known for his creative and nontraditional approach to his work," the spokesman, Boris Kuzmin, said without elaborating. He added, however, that the republic's authorities have nothing but praise for the prosecutor.

Spiridonov told the Izvestia newspaper that he indeed had had to develop a habit of going to school after prosecutors visited his village and had a "chat" with his mother.

"After the meeting they [his parents] told me off really badly and now they push me out to school every morning. I go, I study, for the time being," he said.