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Your Back to School Guide on Truancy

truancyWhat is Truancy?

With the new school year vastly approaching, I feel it is necessary to discuss a topic that is affecting our youth today. Truancy or truant is a term used for a student who has multiple unexcused absences from school. Truancy affects all school age children from kindergarten to high school. Please note the definition may vary slightly depending on your specific state or school district laws. There are two forms of truancy – habitual and chronic. Habitual truancy is when a student misses five or more consecutive schools days, seven or more days in a month or twelve days in a year. Likewise, chronic truancy is a student who misses seven or more consecutive days, ten days in a month, or fifteen in a year.

A few examples of excused/unexcused absences are:

Excused absences: illness with a doctor’s note, death in the family, hazardous weather conditions
Unexcused absences: missing the bus, not wanting to attend school, family trips, work

What Causes Truancy?

There are many factors that can attribute to truant behavior. The Juvenile Justice Bulletin correlates four major categories to truancy:

• Family Factors- lack of parental supervision, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, different viewpoints about education.
• School Factors – school size, nonchalant attitude of the teachers, inconsistent consequences for absentee students
• Economic Influences – single parent, student working full-time, lack of transportation to and from school
• Student Variables – substance abuse, bullying, health issues, stress and other mental health issues

What are the Consequences of Truancy?

The consequences of truancy can have long term effects on students and their families such as dropping out of school, alcohol /drug abuse, criminal activity, teen pregnancy, court fines, or even jail time.

 What is Being Done to Address Truant Behavior?

Some states and school districts have enacted an automated calling system which notifies parents when their child is not marked “present” in the computer. Other states, such as Arizona and California created a program which enforces mandatory school attendance. A county in Arizona, developed program called CUTS (Court Unified Truancy Suppression) which assist and educates the truant offenders by educating and addresses the needs of the child and family. California’s program is called S.T.O.P. (Stop Truancy Opportunity Program) which is a five-step program that notifies the parent of unexcused absences. Once the student reaches the fifth step (7th unexcused absence) a petition with the Juvenile Justice Court is filed requesting the minor be placed on Formal Probation.

What Can Parents Do?

• Speak to your child about truancy and its effects on their life and yours
• Stay actively involved in your child’s school and personal life
• Encourage your child to excel in school
• Be a listening ear
• Look for negative behaviors and changes in mood and address them promptly
• Try truancy mediation

Some states have a special mediation service called truancy mediation. The NSCS (National Center of State Court) will provide you with additional information by state. Listen to our podcast Truancy Mediation-What You Should Know with Michelle Zaremba and Trisha Werts as they discuss truancy and how mediation can be a valuable process for the student, parents, and schools.

By Yvette Watson Jenkins
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program


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