Truancy Program - SPED

Truancy Program - A Multidisciplinary Team Approach:
Truancy Review Board
Truancy Review Hearing
Primary Contact Name:
Rebecca H. Love, Principal-Unicoi County High School
Phone: 423-743-1632
Secondary Contact Name:
Leigh Anne Bowman
Phone: 423-743-1632
School System:
Unicoi County Schools
The Truancy Review Board is an effective concept that has been instrumental in increasing
awareness and truancy reduction. The board is a working model of how different stakeholders
can work collectively. The board was established five years ago and is a multidisciplinary team
that consists of school administrators, school social workers, law enforcement, school resource
officers, probation officers, juvenile court personnel and representatives from the Department
of Children’s Services.
The partnership of professionals meets weekly for the purpose of examining student’s
attendance reports that reflect excessive absenteeism. The student’s attendance history is
individually reviewed and discussed among the team. Information is shared and strategies for
intervention are discussed in an open forum type format. Each member is encouraged to
participate according to his or her area of expertise and profession.
Referring a student to the Truancy Team consists of completing the follow steps. Once a
student reaches five unexcused absences, contact is made with the parent to inform them of
the attendance concerns. A truancy referral form is then submitted by the respective school
and presented at the Truancy Review Team meeting. The student’s name is placed on the
Truancy Hearing docket. Notification of the decision and the date of the hearing are sent to
the parents by regular and certified mail. Parents and students can refer back to eh Student
Handbook for more information regarding truancy policies and the hearing process.
As stated in school policy students are required to appear at a Truancy Review hearing which
operates under the direction of the Supervisor of Attendance. This meeting is held at the
student’s school; both parent and student are required to attend. The purpose of the hearing
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is to formally notify the parent of the absenteeism, to put the student on informal notice that
the truancy has become a serious concern, to identify the factors that contribute to the
absences, and to develop a plan to address the issue using various strategies. A
recommendation is made which can include, but is not limited to the following: A review
hearing, increased attendance monitoring, referral to the truancy officer for a juvenile court
petition, and/or a referral for services. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, a referral is
made to a truancy intervention and prevention program called CHOICES.
Students in grades 5-12 are required to attend CHOICES which is a 2 ½ hour comprehensive
program that focuses on educating the parent and student on the consequences of truancy.
The presence of a parent or guardian is mandatory for all students. Students in K-4 are not
encouraged to attend due to content material. The program is offered without charge as a
demonstration of the commitment level of the school to its community. Although CHOICES is
new to Unicoi County, the statistics are indicative of success. 66% of students that completed
the class have not had one unexcused absence since attending. 16.5% had one unexcused
absence, and the final 16.5% had numerous unexcused absences.
CHOICES is research-based and examines truancy forma a number of perspectives. The
correlation between crime and truancy is demonstrated by the use of numerous statistics. The
laws of compulsory school attendance are discussed and the responsibilities of the student and
parent are examined in detail Information is provided from the Department of Safety and
students are advised about attendance and academic requirements that need to be met in
order to be eligible to receive or retain their permits/and or driver’s licenses.
Charts are used to visually demonstrate the difference education can make in a person’s
paycheck. A household budget sheet is used during an open class discussion to reinforce the
need for an adequate salary. The juvenile justice system is explained in addition to probation
and its restrictions. Parents are informed that they could be criminally charges and also
incarcerated (which has occurred in Unicoi County although be it infrequently).
Numerous handouts are provided to both student and parent which include a copy of the
power presentation, statistics to reinforce the material and a letter written by the local
Assistant District Attorney showing his strong belief in the value of education and a
commitment to enforce the law. A survey is provided to both student and parent to allow
them an opportunity to comment on the material, the presentation, and the speaker.
Parents are encouraged to decide for themselves what price they are willing to pay for their
child’s truant behavior. Students are challenged to decide for themselves what price they are
willing to pay to be truant. Personal accountability and responsible decision making is a major
component of the program.
Another component of the truancy reduction program in Unicoi County High School is the
reporting of driver’s license eligibility. Students who have fifteen unexcused days in one
semester or students that have failed four out of six subjects become ineligible according to
the State of Tennessee. The names of students who are non-compliant are reported to the
Department of Safety whose privileges are revoked until compliance is met. This component
was implemented in 2007/2008. In the first semester of 2007/2008, nineteen students were
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reported as out of compliance. In the second semester of 2007/2008, twenty six students
were reported. In January of 2008, sixteen students were reported to the Department of
Safety; however, the majority was not attendance related.
The Truancy Review Board has been fully operational for five years. Within a year, the
director of schools recognized the need for a truancy education program. In 2004, an
agreement was entered into with an outside agency. However, in the 2007/2008 school year,
the program was reevaluated and discontinued. In June of 2008, the high school social
worker was contracted to present a program model which was approved for implementation n
the 2008/2009 school year. The guiding principle behind the program is most students and
parents are unaware of the consequences of truancy. The goal of the program is to inform
and educate both student and parent so they can make an informed decision regarding school
attendance. Without exception, the parent and student surveys (completed by the same at
the end of the program) revealed a new determination by the students to attend school to
avoid the consequences of truancy and a strong commitment expressed by parents to enforce
attendance for the same reason.
Components Added Since 2009:
The first component is an informal adjustment which operates under the jurisdiction of the
juvenile court. The program is a cooperative effort between the court system, the school, a
local community service agency and the student and parent. The Youth Service Officer (YSO)
and a school representative meet with the student and parent at the local courthouse when
the unexcused absences have reached seven to eight days. The parent and student are given
an opportunity to participate in the program, which is voluntary at this point. The parent and
the student are expected to attend and fully participate in an intensive twelve-week parenting
class which meets once a week for three hours at a time. The class is offered free of charge
to the family and the agency is able to provide this service through grants.
In exchange for their participation, the family is not charged a fine or any court costs.
However, if the family fails to complete the agreement, the case is then referred to juvenile
court. Since the informal adjustment component was added in January of 2009, sixty-two
families have agreed to participate. According to the agency, only two families have failed to
complete the class to date.
The second component added is written notification is sent to the student’s home when the
unexcused absences reach three days. This practice has been beneficial to both the parents
and the school by increasing and improving communication between the stakeholders. On a
number of occasions the letter has alerted the parent of their child’s absences of which they
were unaware. The practice of early intervention has proved itself to be worth the effort.
Subject Areas: Truancy.
 Intervention and Prevention
 School Attendance
 Truancy Educations
 Driver’ License Eligibility and Revocation
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Grade Level: All students
Group(s) of Students: All, Free, IEP, LEP, Advanced.
Groups of adults targeted for this practice: Administration, Professional Support Staff,
Secretaries, Security, Parents, and Community Members.
Length of Time: 1-3; 4-6 Years
The Truancy Review Board and Truancy Review Hearing have been in operation since 2004.
Since 2007/2008, student information has been reported to the Department of Safety at the
end of each semester to determine drivers’ license eligibility. CHOICES was approved and
included for use in the 2008/2009 school year.
The foundation of the Unicoi County Truancy Board consists of the Director of Schools,
Supervisor of Attendance, Administrative Secretary, High School Vice-Principal, High School
Social Worker, Middle School Principal and Guidance Counselor, Elementary School Principals,
Elementary School Social Worker, two Probation Officers, Juvenile Court Officer and law
enforcement personnel.
The success of the team is directly related to the commitment level of its members. The Team
meets for 45 minutes each week; the Truancy Hearings require a minimum of 20 minutes per
parent/student meeting.
Truancy hearings consist of the Supervisor of Attendance, a school administrator and/or social
worker, student and at least one parent or guardian. A probation officer, a school nurse and a
school resource officer may attend the hearing to assist with the factors that contribute to the
Court petitions and court hearings require the presence of the attendance supervisor and/or
the deputy who filed the petition. Documentation of attempts made by the school system to
address the truancy issue should be provided to the court along with a current student
attendance report for the Judge to review.
Accurate documentation is essential for tracking purposes and any follow-up referral services.
This task requires a significant amount of time; however, responsibilities can be shared.
Forms that are needed are truancy referral forms, parent/student conference forms, truancy
hearing forms, release of information forms and juvenile court petitions. A spreadsheet is
used to document referral information and results of truancy hearings. A notification letter is
used to inform parents of the truancy hearing date, time and location. For letters are also
sent to parents with information on the CHOICES class meeting.
The CHOICES program requires that a person be familiar with the material, the PowerPoint
presentation and its handouts. Handouts include a copy of the PowerPoint, financial statistics
of persons with varying levels of education, a household budget sheet and a copy of a letter
written by the local Assistant District Attorney. Surveys to both student and portent are
provided for evaluation purposes.
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Supporting Research:
According to Eileen M. Garry, “chronic absenteeism is the most powerful predictor of
delinquent behavior (Truancy: First Step to a Lifetime of Problems, Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved 04-20-08). The vision of Unicoi County School System
is a strong commitment to educating and shaping students to become responsible and
productive citizens. Truancy intervention and prevention has to be a priority to make this a
reality. The Unicoi County Truancy Review Board and the Truancy Hearings are changing lives
without our student population. Every student, who at some point in their education exhibited
truant behavior, that walks across the stage with their diplomas has the evidence in hand that
truancy intervention is worth all the effort.
Recent additions to the program include the scheduling of guest speakers that have expertise
in some capacity’s regarding truancy. Upcoming changes to the CHOICEs program include the
addition of videotaped messages from the Director of Schools, Principal(s), the School
Resource Officer, the Sheriff, the juvenile court YSO, the Juvenile Judge and the Assistant
District Attorney. It is believed that the videos will provide a strong message of solidarity
among the stakeholders of the value of education and a demonstration of their personal
commitment level toward truancy reduction.
CHOICES is currently being translated into a Spanish version of the program.
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