How To Prevent Truancy
The definition of truancy is when a child, typically adolescent to teen aged, misses more than the allowed number of days of school. Each state has a different protocol for what they consider is an appropriate number of unexcused absences. "Habitual truancy" is when a child misses several consecutive days in a row or hits a total number of unexcused absences for a semester or year. In cases of habitual truancy, it is not uncommon for the juvenile or family court to become involved.
Consequences of Truancy
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recognizes four main divisions between the risk factors and kids who have a pattern of skipping school.
1. Family Orientation
- inadequate supervision
- poor attitude about importance of educationpoverty
- alcohol or drug abuse
- uninformed about current state attendance laws
2. School Influences
- Population of school
- School teaching styles
- School does not provide a "safe" environment
- Shortage of resources to deal with the investigation of potentially truant kids
- School's ability to deal with learning disabilities and emotional disabilities
- Inconsistent collection of attendance data
- Overall attitude about attendance and learning
3. Socioeconomic Issues
- Kids who have to work to support the family
- Kids who are not allowed to attend school for religious reasons
- Single parent families
- Kids of military families who may be excessively mobile
- Parents with multiple jobs
- Inadequate transportation
4. The Students Themselves
- Being bullied at school
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Illness or emotional problems
- Mental disability
- Social disorders
Effects of Truancy
The effects of children chronically missing school are both immediate and latent. Kids may fall prey to being "pushed out" and be expelled because they are truant or underachieving. Kids who are truant are more likely to dropout or not graduate and if they do dropout they are less likely to acquire their GED.
Kids who attempt to stay in school but continue to struggle with truancy also struggle with low grades and may have to repeat grades. Kids may have behavioral issues and administrative staff may not be equipped to deal with the needs of the individual. Kids may resort to substance abuse , delinquency, criminal activity, gang involvement or they may become involved in more serious criminal activity which can be problematic. See Characteristics of a Juvenile Delinquent. Children who are habitually truant can be placed in juvenile detention facilities. 60% of all cases that go to court are adjudicated - meaning they are convicted. The outcomes are varying because each case is disposed of based on the individual. In most cases kids are placed on probation, however kids can be put in foster care or group homes. There is no evidence that suggests taking truant children away from their homes and families successfully deters truancy.
Ways To Reduce Truancy
Experts agree that the #1 way to reduce truancy is to attach families to the schools and the community to work together to understand the importance of education. If the school, the family and the community are all are working together, it's much more likely that productive strategies will be put into place and used effectively.
Schools must keep accurate attendance records and maintain consistency for all students in regards to excused and unexcused absences. If the policies about absences are clear, students and parents will be less likely to be confused.
School districts sometimes create alternatives to suspension and expulsion. Often times schools or juvenile and family court systems will negotiate contracts with truant kids hoping to foster attendance by holding the child accountable.
Many school districts offer after school programs, alternative school programs, technical schools and specialized training schools which have been successful for many youth. They may include dance, art, advanced courses or training and are often tailored to the individual student's learning style through the use of an IEP (individual education program).
Creating a safe and positive atmosphere for all students that provides discipline, structure and support from the family, the school and the community will most likely be our best hope for reducing truancy in the future.
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