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What Are the Effects of Truancy?

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

Residents on one of the balconies of the Robert Taylor homes, a low income, high-rise apartment building in Chicago.

Residents on one of the balconies of the Robert Taylor homes, a low income, high-rise apartment building in Chicago.

What Is Truancy?

Truancy has definite consequences for students and for communities. An average of 68% of male prison inmates are high school dropouts. That is a staggering rate and an overwhelming reason to deal with truancy right now.

In my quest for information about truancy, several things were apparent:

  1. There is a different definition of truancy for each state in the US.
  2. Schools may have 90% of their students in attendance every day; however, different students miss class on different days, so it's easy to "make the grade" when in fact, kids are chronically absent over the course of an entire year.
  3. Kids are most likely to be absent in high school.
  4. The highest number of truant children are from low-income families.
  5. The two major educational deficiencies children experience from truancy are in reading and math.

Why Aren't Kids Coming to School?

There seems to be a buffet of reasons kids aren't coming to school. There does seem to be an understanding of the influx of truant students across the united states. With the population steadily on the rise, it's no mystery that the breakdown of educational strongholds is happening. In low-income neighborhoods, it's becoming more common for kids to watch the bus drive by than to get on and commit to learning.

In addition to growing up in poverty, kids may also have to deal with absentee parents or parents who are excessively mobile. They may have parents who are incarcerated or who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They may come from a family that doesn't feel education is important and that isn't aware of the attendance laws. Kids may not want to attend school because of the school environment. Perhaps it's unsafe, they are being bullied or they are having a negative experience through academics or unsatisfactory peer groups. There also exists an internal phenomenon known as the "pushing-out" of students whereby some schools and districts feel that that they should expel low-achieving and truant kids, in effect raising the overall academic achievements of the school and district. This type of gross negligence is only helping to fill prisons, not raise academic achievement standards. 9 out of 10 inmates across the nation are high school dropouts. In the two years that I worked at Lansing Penitentiary, I never met an inmate that said he wanted to fail.

A man being arrested for Methamphetamine possession in San Fransisco, California.

A man being arrested for Methamphetamine possession in San Fransisco, California.

The Truth About Truancy

Statistics show that truancy has devastating effects on both the student and the community. The short-term effects are an increase in delinquent, criminal and gang activity. Long-term effects include poor physical and mental health, the continuance of family poverty, and a high risk of addiction and incarceration.

Schools are filing truancy petitions and parents are being brought into court in some jurisdictions however, in cities the size of San Francisco alone there are 5000 kids truant every day. There are not enough courtrooms and not enough prosecutors to write affidavits to address the number of truancies that take place each day in the United States. There needs to be a change of attitude toward the importance of education; a leadership that systematically convinces and enlightens society to the truth about truancy.

The Road to Right

Several prison systems have instituted new programs called "Beyond Scared Straight" and the A & E Television Network has televised them. They have many different methods of working with, breaking down, and getting through to the assemblage of both male and female subjects. Tactics range from friendly and brotherly to loud, abrasive, intrusive, and terrifying. During the course of the program, the kids who participate are always ostensibly affected. Follow-up visits with youth or their parents (mostly by phone) have about a 70-80% success rate of integrating back into society. Considering the odds of trying to make it on the streets in dangerous areas, with high crime rates and little or no guidance, each program is typically one day to one week in a lock-down setting with inmates, security officers, staff, and crew and a life-changing impact. Kids have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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.