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How to Prevent Truancy and Chronic Absenteeism

Kristi graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Human Development and Developmental Psychopathology of Children.

What is truancy, and how can it be prevented?

What is truancy, and how can it be prevented?

Truancy Defined

The definition of truancy is when a child, typically adolescent or teenaged children, 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 the importance of education poverty
  • 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

Kids Are Less Likely to Graduate or Get Their GED and May Have to Repeat Grades

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 drop out or not graduate, and if they do drop out, 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.

There May Be Behavioral Issues, Substance Abuse, and Criminal Activity

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.

Habitually Truant Kids May Go to Juvenile Detention Facilities

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

Connect Families and Schools

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.

Keep Attendance Records and Maintain Consistency

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.

Create Alternatives to Harsh Punishments

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.

Provide After-School and Alternative School Programs

Many school districts offer after-school programs, alternative school programs, technical schools, and specialized training schools, which have been successful for many youths. 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).

Create a Safe and Positive Atmosphere at School

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.

Further Reading

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on April 18, 2016:

ashley, Thanks for reading and commenting. Perhaps that's true however due to politics and things that are out of their control, teachers are often given a curriculum that they have to adhere to. While some teachers are just not great in their delivery, that I agree with, it's still important to be present - to finish high school and if possible go to college. -K

ashley on April 24, 2015:

Maybe students wouldn't be skipping if teachers were less monotone,had incredibly boring teaching styles with no form of individuality and freedom to study what they WANT to,not being forced to.

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 27, 2012:

Simone, Thank you for reading and commenting. I didn't skip school until I had a tragic event happen and no family support. Luckily I had enough credits to graduate and go straight to college but most kids aren't that fortunate. I appreciate you taking the time to be here. -K

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 19, 2012:

As someone who has never skipped school (and could never even imagine doing so), truancy is a difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around. Thanks for giving me a more robust understanding of truancy's underlying causes and long term consequences!

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 17, 2012:

teaches, thank you for reading and commenting. Taking steps to prevent truancy is so important. I'm glad we have people like you who are willing to take the time and energy to invest in kiddos. Glad you are here :) -K

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 17, 2012:

Om, it's a good thing your mom was on top of things. I know that my boys don't appreciate when I do "the mom" stuff but they will one day! :) You turned out great and now you know what to do with your kiddos! Thanks for reading and leaving your input. It's always good to hear from you. -K

Dianna Mendez on June 16, 2012:

Good suggestions on helping to keep truancy to a minimum in our schools. I find that taking attendance does help in keeping them accountable.

Om Paramapoonya on June 15, 2012:

Another great hub on teen issues! This had never been my problem when I was a kid, not because I was such a diligent student but because I knew my mom wouldn't take this matter lightly if she found out about it. She was very strict, always made sure she knew where I went and whom I hanged out with. It made me resent her quite a bit back then, but now I'm very grateful she raised me the way she did.

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 15, 2012:

greatstuff, thank you for reading and commenting. It's fantastic that your son has a good teacher and great friends. It makes such a positive difference for kiddos when they love being there. You're correct in that children learn differently - they sure do. Kids definitely aren't robotic in any way. Glad to have your input. -K

Mazlan from Malaysia on June 15, 2012:

spartucusjones is right when he said that you need to figure out why they don't want to attend school. Maybe each student has different learning curves and if we make it easy and fun for them, they may enjoy school? My youngest son has dyslexia and he finds school subjects difficult to follow. I think the reason why he enjoys attending class are the responsibilities given to him. His class teacher understands his problem and also know what he likes, so he is given assignments and duties that he really enjoys. But the most important point, is his friends. He loves them and look forward to see them in school.

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 14, 2012:

mhatter, great to hear from you. Parental involvement seems to play a major role in education. I have two boys, one is much more independent than the other. My youngest son, at the age of ten, asked me if he could move out, get a job and get married. He was as serious as a yen year old could be. I'm certain he had a lovely bride picked out. I explained that he could fulfill all of those dreams, as soon as he graduated with his PHD. Thank you for taking the time to read :) -K

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 14, 2012:

donnah, thank you for commenting. It would be great if there was a truancy officer at every school. Perhaps you would see those kiddos. I'm a firm believer that our prison systems would look a lot different than they do now if we paid more attention to what is going on at school. Thank you for taking the time to read, I appreciate your input. -K

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on June 14, 2012:

Thank you for this. i am a big advocate of parental involvement.

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on June 14, 2012:

This is sadly a growing problem. I so wish we had a truancy officer at the school where I work. Some of my students have so many absences that I forget what they look like. Voted up and useful.

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 14, 2012:

I love it! I served as truancy officer for two years and it was pretty much the same. I had five cases and I followed kids around, took them to school, doctors, court or anywhere they needed to go. I had to write an undergraduate thesis on those kiddos - it turned into a book, literally. Thank you for your funny comment, leah. I appreciate you being here. -K

Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 14, 2012:

We have a family friend with a son who skipped school. She decided to attend class with him for the following week, since he obviously needed help making it to school. It was rather hilarious, as she sat with him at his lunch table, etc. He never skipped school again! Truancy is a real problem with some kids - and the reasons vary considerably (some kids are skipping school for fun, others because they help support their families through work).

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 14, 2012:

Spartucus, Thank you for your input. Understanding the existing problem will make remediation much easier. If students are enjoying school they will return. Great to hear from you. -K

CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on June 14, 2012:

Very well researched and informative hub! You offered many practical tips to help combat the issue of habitual truancy. I agree you really need to pinpoint the root cause to figure out why someone wouldn't want to attend school. If you work at creating a positive learning environment, the students would be more likely to want to attend.

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