For Whom the Bell Tolls

Electronic monitoring may dramatically curb truancy. So why isn't DISD interested?

But Pottinger isn't giving up, and neither is Cantrell. Cantrell sent a briefing on the program to several people including DISD officials and Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle to gain support for AIM. Until then, funding for any further pilots will likely come from Bruce Leadbetter, who says he's spent more than $300,000 on the first three trials.

Pottinger says he may change his business model to training and certifying schools after hearing from schools in Waco, Arizona and California that became interested in the program as a result of the recent publicity garnered from a June 10 story on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. And Principal Goodsell is lobbying DISD to find funding to retain the program at Bryan Adams.

On May 23, Fanny Aragon, Josh Cervantes and Jaime Pacheco came to school ready to hand in their monitors along with the other six students in the program. Pottinger and Urrutia greeted them with cookies and doughnuts, and the students happily handed over their devices.

Pacheco says "it feels good" to get rid of the monitor, but it helped him take the time to realize that he needs to graduate to get a good job.

Cervantes says he wouldn't be where he is without the support of everyone involved in the program. "They're trying to help me," he says. "The only way I can help them back is to keep doing what I'm supposed to be doing so I can make it in life."

As for Aragon, she says "it feels weird" because she is so used to being monitored now. She leans back, takes a deep breath and reveals that she's "worried a little bit." Aragon will be spending the summer with family members in Mexico, trying to heal emotional wounds from her miscarriage and the strained relationship with her father, who disappeared in January after her grandmother died. She holds onto the image of watching other students leave the truancy court in handcuffs, remembering how scared she was that day.

"Hopefully, I won't go back to what I was."

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