Click photo to enlarge
Brothers Alex, left, 9, and Lucas, 13, Marchesani show their mother, Anita, an art project they had been working on. (Liz Rohde Photo)
When West Manchester Township resident Kathy Gay took a recent trip to pick up a book from a friend in West York, her sons came along.

School was in session as 11-year-old Sam and 14-year-old Andrew played outside, and Gay realized the boys could be mistaken for lawbreakers.

West York recently established a daytime curfew, which requires those younger than 18 to stay out of public areas when they are supposed to be in school.

The law allows children to be out with permission
from their school or, in the case of homeschoolers, their parents, so Gay's children were not actually breaking the law.

Other exceptions include teens who have permission to be out, which officials have said includes graduates, and those who are in the military or exercising their first-amendment rights.

Despite the exceptions, Gay and other homeschooling parents say they are feeling wary as other municipalities consider putting daytime curfews in place.

"I think it's just a subtle breakdown of family freedoms," Gay said.

Fighting truancy: A task force promoting uniform curfews throughout the county started encouraging daytime curfews as a way to prevent truancy, said task force member Sgt. Brian Copenheaver of the York County Sheriff's office.

Almost 3,000 York County students are habitually truant in the 2005-2006 school year, according to information reported to the state Department of Education.

"It just seems like there's no excuse for that," Coppenheaver said.


"It just seems like we have to figure out a plan and do something to rein in the truancy issue, because kids need to be in school."

The task force eventually dropped the daytime curfew recommendation because District Attorney Stan Rebert would not support it, but some municipalities are still pursuing the idea.

North York put its own daytime curfew in place last month, and the idea is under discussion in Manchester Township.

The York City Council pursued and then dropped a daytime curfew proposal when the council revised the city's curfew law in March. But councilwoman Toni Smith said the council could revisit the idea.

Legal questions: Daytime curfews face the same legal uncertainties as nighttime curfews, which have at times been thrown out by courts for being unnecessarily restrictive, said American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Valerie Burch.

Still, daytime curfews have been in place in a number of Pennsylvania municipalities for years. Among them is Allentown, where a daytime curfew remained even after a nighttime curfew was struck down in court.

"It certainly helps us in our efforts to remove youth from the streets during the daytime," said Capt. Daryl Hendricks of the Allentown police department.

Northern York County Regional Police Chief Carl Segatti said parents have no reason to worry about the daytime curfew. Police already have the right to stop young people and find out whether they should be in school. If necessary, they call a child's school or parent to check.

"We do these things all the time," Segatti said. "We check facts, we interview people."

What a daytime curfew does is let police decide whether to charge someone for being out of school. The current truancy law leaves that decision up to school authorities, Segatti said.

More aware: Despite such reassurances, some parents have come out to oppose the laws, especially parents who homeschool.

Paula Damiano of Wrightsville said homeschooling makes her more aware of the restrictions a daytime curfew would place on children, since hers are more likely to be out when others are in class.

Wrightsville does not have a daytime curfew now, but Damiano wonders if the idea could spread there and make harder for her 13-year-old to buy a soda after he finishes his schoolwork.

"For him to go to the corner Turkey Hill, he would be questioned by the owners and could even be denied service," Damiano said. Pondering different scenarios, she laughed and asked, "Is this America?"

--Reach Daina Klimanis at 505-5439 or