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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 teenage 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, or gang involvement, or they may become involved in more serious criminal activity, which can be problematic.

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 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 regard 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. Oftentimes, 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.