“When changes are made that impact minors or young people in general, they are the last people to know, and I feel like they are the first to know,” Morris said, 17 years. She added that when the announcement was made outside, students across the county were confused about the curfew rules.
Angela D. Alsobrooks announced the enforcement of a long-standing youth curfew earlier this week, following about two years of escalating violence and an August that became the county’s deadliest month in four decades. The application will begin Friday at 11:59 p.m. and will last for at least 30 days.
Under the curfew, children 16 and under must not be outside in public areas from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11:59 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The district also resumed its youth curfew, which restricts activity for those under 17 at night.
DC quietly resumes youth curfew enforcement after two-year hiatus
Alsobrooks’ announcement attracted a mix of fans and skeptics. Among teenagers, this prompted an influx of questions.
“I think if I sit down and think about it, I could write a book about how many questions I’ve had,” said La’Niyah King-Brooks, 14, who attends the school from the district, but lives in Suitland, Md. La’Niyah was reconsidering finding a part-time job, she said, because she wasn’t sure what would happen if her shift ended after curfew hours. She was concerned about the county code enforced by police, as she said law enforcement “takes its job too seriously or not seriously enough.”
The county code allows an exemption for children who are legally employed and carry an employment card with their hours written on it.
Under Prince George’s curfew rules for minors, children are allowed outside during curfew hours if accompanied by a parent or authorized adult. There is also an exception if a child takes a direct route home within one hour of completing a school, religious or volunteer activity, such as going to the movies or a game sport.
But young people in the county say there hasn’t been enough education about their rights surrounding the curfew. Prince George’s County School Board student member Alvaro Ceron-Ruiz said he thinks students shouldn’t be out late at night, but “students obviously don’t want the government to limit outing times” . When reached this week, he did not know what would happen to students who went out late after curfew due to a school-sanctioned event.
“If I didn’t hear the guidance, that means the students didn’t get the guidance,” said Ceron-Ruiz, a 17-year-old at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. “Hopefully by Friday, when they plan to release this, the information will be clear to students and young people.”
What to know about Prince George’s County Juvenile Curfew
Prince George school system officials declined to comment on the story, including responding to whether they were involved in the county executive’s decision to enact the curfew. Juanita Miller, the school board president, said she was not aware of any board member who participated in a curfew discussion.
Alsobrooks administration released more information about curfew exceptions in a newsletter on Friday and noted that officers would focus on education first. Law enforcement will review curfew rules with the youth, tell them to go home and notify a parent or guardian. If caught again after hours, police will wait with the child for two hours while a parent or guardian is contacted. If not found, the child will be handed over to social services. There are also fines for parents and businesses allowing children out after curfew hours.
“We know that a curfew will not end the violence. This is just a new tool we are using in our crime prevention efforts,” Alsobrooks wrote. “We want to reach and engage parents in a different way, and get them to be better partners in supporting our kids.”
Rachel Sherman, who has a 17-year-old daughter attending a private school in the county, said she’s not against the curfew, but the county needs to be “more proactive than reactive.” Sherman cited the county’s consolidation of alternative schools as an example, arguing that the schools’ programs were a proactive approach to preventing teens from engaging in crime, but the school system chose to close some of the programs.
At a Prince George School Board meeting on Thursday, board members did not directly refer to the county curfew, but asked several questions about school safety and mental health supports during of a back-to-school presentation. School system administrators said they are working in partnership with county police to keep guns out of schools. They also hired 167 mental health clinicians for the school year, up 27 from last year.
Miller said she was concerned about the rising homicide rate, adding that it scared students as they walked to and from school. She added that the school system is asking parents for help in being vigilant about what children bring home. The school system provides as much protection as possible, Miller said, “but we can’t protect them from what’s happening on the street…”.