Exploring the Issue of Truancy

Brian J. Kluchurosky
Learning Objectives
• Discovering Truancy
– Understand what defines truancy, its many styles and effects
across multiple domains
– Define the roles and responsibilities in reporting truancy
– Recognize the accountability of the parent/ caregiver
– Realize the flow of truancy in accordance with state compulsory
attendance laws
• Eliminating Truancy
Understand the roles and responsibilities of the entities involved
Define proactive opportunities/moments for truancy reduction
Recognize the vial importance of genuine care for a child
Realize the power in collaboration
Part One
Discovering Truancy
“Truancy is not the problem—it’s an indicator
of other problems. When students aren’t in
school, we need to understand why they stay
away before we can effect the solution.”
-Safe Schools and Violence
Prevention Office, California
Department of Education
What is Truancy?
• Layman’s Term:
• “Truancy” is actually an abstract term:
• Not physical/tangible
• Rather, represents a spectrum of underlying issues
• Issues can be categorized into domains
Styles of Absence
• Truancy appears in a variety of absence styles.
-Different styles of absence include:
-Unexcused absences
-Excused absences
-Partial day absences
-Tardiness/Early dismissal
-Class absence while in school
Problems with Tracking Truancy
• Although NCLB requires schools to track truancy rates,
there is currently no universal checklist as to what
should be deemed “truant”
– As a result, a school can have a high attendance rate, but
high truancy issue as well (in school, but not in class, yet
attending homeroom period)
– School districts vary on “what” is considered truancy – 3,
7, 21 days
– Some school stop tracking truancy with a student once
they have hit a certain cumulative absence mark, thus
deflating truancy numbers
– National truancy data is difficult to track. State to state
data is therefore more viable
Estimated Truancy Stats
State Level
• Estimates vary from state to state and city to city,
however, there are some common themes.
– Absentee rate highest in urban schools, lowest in rural
– Some cities report that thousands of students are
absent without legal excused each day
• Pittsburgh, PA – Approximately 3,500 students absent on a
given day – 12% gone per day - 70% unexcused absence
• Philadelphia, PA – more than 12,000 absent
Not WHAT, but WHO and WHY
• Although a universal checklist does not exist
across schools for specifically/statistically “what”
is deemed truant, an educated assumption can
be made truancy is prevalent in some capacity
(e.g. minimal, mild, extreme) with a student who
is chronic and excessive absence from school
and/or class
• The attention should focus on “who” and “why” a
student is truant.
Who/ Why skip school?
• Truancy causes are very diverse in reason
across domains:
• Personal/Psychological
• School/Social
• Home/Family
• Community/Economic
Personal/ Psychological Domain
• Low self image
Poor hygiene, diet
• Physical
• Health problems
• Psychological
ADHD, Autism, ODD
• Identification
Sexual preference
• Attention issues
• Substance use
Drugs, Alcohol
School/Social Domain
• Lack of adherence to
school policy OR
Safety concerns
Low academic scores
Negative peer pressure
• Irrelevant Courses
• Conflicts with teachers
• School size
Home/ Family Domain
• Needing to care for
family members
• Lack of parental
scholastic support
• Substance abuse in
• Domestic violence
• Lack of knowledge of
school policy
• Living in poverty
• Need to financially
support family
• Minimal parental/adult
• Without the means to
afford day-care
• Broken home
Community/ Economic Domain
• Increased presence of illegal activity – need to
make money
• Lack of adequate knowledge of positive
resources and mentors - minimal supervision
• Lack of employment opportunities – sense of
• Transportation issues
• Lack of social capital – minimal social
connecting – increased isolation
• Interconnectivity – one domain issue often sets off
other domain issues, creating a NEGATIVE CYCLE that
perpetuates truancy
Interconnectivity Example
– Jane Doe
• Scenario:
-Minimal parental attention (Home/Family)
poor hygiene, poor diet, low self image (Personal/Psychological)
bullying issue and negative peer pressure
at school, resulting in suspension (School/Social)
illegal activity in the community during suspension
day to make money (Community/Economic)
financially support a sick grandmother in need of attention (Home/Family)
• The result of the on-going cycle of interconnecting issues across domains in
this scenario is an increased likelihood for a student not to attend school in
the future
Truancy as a Predictor
• A student who is truant maintains an
increased likelihood for a number of “at-risk”
– Delinquency (violence, criminal activity)
– Dropping out of school
– Substance Abuse
– Unwanted Teen Pregnancy
– Social Isolation
High Correlation to Delinquency
• Truancy is the most powerful predictor of
delinquency among youth – particularly high
correlation with males
– Increased criminal activity potential as a result of
not being in school:
• Increased potential for gang involvement
– “never seen a gang member who wasn’t a truant first”
-California Deputy Assistant Attorney
• Increase in day-time violent (burglary) and non-violent
criminal activity (vandalism)
Truancy = Increased Delinquency
• High correlation with delinquency:
– Nationally, between 1989 and 1998, the rate of petitioned
truancy status offense cases handled by juvenile courts
increased by 85% (from 22,000 to 41,000).
– In 2005:
-The adjudicated status offense caseload contained a
smaller proportion of runaway cases and a larger
proportion of truancy cases.
-Truancy cases accounted for the largest share of
adjudicated status offense cases that resulted in out-ofhome placement.
-Of 1000 formal truancy cases, 347 resulted in formal
probations and 59 were placed out of the home.
High Correlation to Drop Outs
• Natural Progression from truancy to drop-out
- Behaviors stem from truancy and can lead to dropping out
- Disciplinary problems (Early Detection)
- Falling behind academically (Moderate Detection)
- Loss of positive attachment with regards to school
(Late Detection)
- Eventually – school becomes an inadequate priority necessary for
continued individual and/or family survival in the world
- Social and financial impact of Drop Outs to local
- Less educated workforce
- Increased crime rates
- Increase in cost of social services (negative generational cycle)
Estimated Graduation/Drop Out Stats
National Level
• In 2004:
– 22% of all 18-24 year olds had not completed high school.
– 15% of that group was neither employed or back in school.
– About one-third of students who enter 9th grade do not receive their
diploma within 4 years.
– 59% of federal inmates are school drop outs .
• Drop outs are 3.5. times more likely that graduates to end up in
prison at some point in their life.
• Each year, 5 out of every 100 students drop out of school.
• In the last decade, roughly between 350,000 and 550,000 students
have dropped out of school EACH YEAR.
National Graduation/Drop Out Stats
Minority Groups
• National graduation rate in 2001 was 70%, but
for lower for some minority groups
–African Americans – 50%
–American Indians – 51%
–Latinos – 53%
Cost of Drop Outs
• Economic Cost
– Drop outs earn less than graduates and require
more public assistance
– Between welfare benefits and crime, drop outs
create an annual cost of 24 billion dollars to the
– The U.S. would save $41.8 billion dollars in health
care costs if 600,000 drop outs completed just one
more year of schooling
High Correlation to Substance Abuse
• Studies have found that truancy increases the
probability of a student engaging in drug and/or
alcohol use
• Low school attachment creates a bond with
deviant peers – one of the byproducts is use of
drugs and/or alcohol
Illegal hard drugs
High Correlation to Unwanted Teen
• Studies have shown an increase in
unplanned/unwanted pregnancy among those
students who are truant
– Additionally, research has shown
• Teen mothers are less likely to complete school (only 1/3
receive a high school diploma)
• Only 1.5% of teen mothers have a college degree by the age
of 30
• Sons of teen mothers are 13% more likely to end up in
prison while teen daughters are more 22% likely to become
teen mothers themselves (generational negative cycle)
High Correlation to Social Isolation
• Research has suggested that social isolation is often a
bi-product of remaining home as a result of “other”
– Falling behind academically – repeating a grade
– Minimal connection to peers or school staff – low social
– Psychological issues
• A number of studies have found that truants have low
self-esteem and experience greater feelings of
rejection or criticism from their parents than nontruants.
Recap – Correlated Risk Factors for
Truant Youth
Increased chance of criminal behavior/prison
Increased chance of dropping out of school
Increased chance of substance abuse
Increased chance of unwanted pregnancy
Increased chance of social isolation
Remaining undereducated = decreased
opportunity for meaningful employment,
increased dependency on public assistance
Compulsory Attendance Laws and
Policies for Children in Pennsylvania
• Any child between the ages of 8 and 17 must
attend school (in Philadelphia, the compulsory
starting age is 6)
• Attendance is defined by:
Regular public school
Charter school
Licensed private OR religious school
Cyber school
Approved homeschooling program
Compulsory Attendance Laws and
Policies for Children in Pennsylvania
• Exception: If a child is 16 and holds a full-time
job during school hours, then he/she does not
have to attend school. *The child MUST have
an Employment Certificate (“working papers”)
from his/her school district.
Compulsory Attendance Laws and
Policies for Children in Pennsylvania
• Person(s) responsible for children to attend:
– Parent(s)
– Caregiver
• Foster parent
• Legal guardian
Compulsory Attendance Laws and
Policies for Children in Pennsylvania
• What constitutes a VALID excuse from school?
– Varies from school district to school district
– Pittsburgh Public School District
• Maximum of 10 days of cumulative absences able to be
verified by parent notification – beyond 10 require a
written excuse by a physician
• If a written excuse is not received within 3 calendar
days after the absence, the absence will permanently
counted as unexcused
• 6 unexcused absences = failure for the marking period
• 24 unexcused absences = failure for the school year
The Role of the School
• Who reports truancy and what are the roles
– School Role
• Every principal or teacher MUST report to the
superintendent, attendance office, or the secretary of
the school board any child who has had 3 unexcused
• Upon missing 3 unexcused absences, the school is
required to hold a Truancy Elimination Plan meeting
The Role of the School (Continued)
• The school district MUST provide the
parent/caregiver with written notice if the child
has 3 unexcused absences for the school year
• If a child continues to miss school AFTER the
written notice has been sent, the district can file a
truancy petition with the local district justice
-A truancy hearing will then be set
The Role of the Parent/ Caregiver
• Parent/ Caregiver Role
– Parent/caregiver is ultimately responsible for
ensuring that his/her child/children attend school
in a consistent and timely manner
– The parent/caregiver will be responsible to attend
the Truancy Elimination Plan meeting
– The parent/caregiver will be responsible for
attending the court hearing if a truancy petition is
The Role of the Court
• If a truancy hearing is held:
– Child and parent are expected to show up and testify.
– If found guilty of a truancy violation, a parent can be
fined up to $300 OR be subject to community service
hours (for up to six months)
• Failure to comply can result in jail time (up to 5 days)
– Child (over the age of 13) can also be found guilty and
fined up to $300 if the parents show that they tried to
get the child to attend schools
– Adjudication alternative programs (such as
community service hours) can also be issued to the
child in place of a fine
– A continuation and no fines
The Role of the Court (Continued)
• Continual truancy AFTER a truancy hearing with a local
district justice can lead to a referral to local Children &
Youth services
• Additionally, a referral can be made to the local
juvenile family court, where the child can be found
• If found dependant the child risks:
– A court order to attend school every period of every day
– Removal from home and placed in care of a foster parent
– Removal from home to a placement facility or group home
Flow of Truancy
• Flow chart of truancy
• Child misses 3 or more unexcused absences from school
• Written truancy notice sent home to parent(s)/caregiver
AND Truancy Elimination Plan meeting set up
• Truancy petition filed with local district judge
• Referral to Children & Youth services
• Referral to local juvenile court
• Child found dependant by the court
Missteps of Truant Children and
Parents/ Caregivers
• Common missteps of truant children and
parent(s)/caregiver(s) that lead to dependency and/or
child removal from home:
– Failure to provide written notice for absences (including
within required timeframes)
– Failure of child and/or parent to attend the Truancy
Elimination Plan meeting
– Failure of parent and/or child to attend the truancy
petition hearing
– Failure of parent and/or child to pay the levied fine/fulfill
the mandated community service
– Failure of parent/child to submit to a urine screen at
juvenile court
Summation of Discovering Truancy
• Truancy is not a problem – truancy is an
INDICATOR of other problems
• We understand
Truancy as an abstract term – an indicator of issues
Defining styles of truancy
Struggles with universally tracking truancy
Issues across domains that cause truancy
Correlations from truancy that can lead to high-risk
– The roles of the school, parent, and courts for
adhering and enforcing compulsory school laws
Part Two
Eliminating Truancy
The Role of the School
• School connectedness
– A student who feels cared for by the school is less
likely to engage in truant habits
– Findings from the National Longitudinal Study of
Adolescent Health concluded that students must
experience the following to feel connected to schools:
• High academic expectations coupled with support for
• Positive relationships with adults at the school
• Physical and emotional safety
– The study also found that students that feel school
connectedness display the following habits
• Increased educational motivation
• Increased classroom engagement
• Improved school attendance
Strategies for the School
• Checklist for schools to improve school connectedness
– High academic standards along with matching/available
– Fair and enforced disciplinary policies
– Creating trusting relationships among teachers,
administration, security, etc.
– Ways to foster continual parental involvement
– Ensuring that each student feels connected to at least one
adult at school
• Additionally, utilize community organizations who specialized
in working with truancy and/or truant behaviors
Will it Work?
• Studies have concluded that teachers who create a caring
and structured environment results in higher academic
scores and increased school attendance
• Study of a school bullying prevention program, focused on
increased school action and individualized attention
– After 2 years of implementation, bullying decreased by 50%
– Decreases were also cited in truancy, community vandalism, and
community theft
• Study of high school drop outs increased chance of success
– 75% said more individualized attention
– 71% said increased parent/teacher communication
– 70% said increased school supervision ensuring class attendance
The Role of the Student
• Students engage in school on 2 levels
– Learning (academic)
– Social (peer and teacher relationships)
• Truancy typically ensues when these levels of
engagement are poor and/or negative
Falling behind in academic work
Lack of teacher support
Negative peer pressure
Strategies for the Student
• Become self aware!
• Explore and examine the areas of need in both
academic and social engagements
– Skills assessment study
• Students completed a skills assessment survey that
identified deficiencies in both academic and social
situations (e.g. bored in class, easily talked into
negative situations)
• Skills lessons were then built and implemented (via
staff) around the results of the assessment – student
pointing out concerns RATHER THAN teacher, parent,
Strategies for the Student
• Become involved!
• It is in our social makeup to want to belong to a group
• Students who are involved in after-school groups and activities are less
likely to develop or display truant habits (e.g. social isolation, low selfesteem)
– Methods to get a student motivated/involved
• Hold assemblies/publish brochures that provide overviews of the
scholastic groups
• Encourage the students to “create a group,” then find a teacher to
act as an advisor
– Example: Peer conservation group
• Surveys WITH follow up appointments
• Work with court-ordered and/or school recommended organizations that
address truancy and/or truant behavior
Will it Work?
• Study of 40 students who engaged in the self assessment
survey and skills training over a 9 week span
14% reduction in truancy
58% reduction in frequency of problem behaviors
31% increase in grade point average
50% increase in student ability to handle various problems
• National data has found that students who do not participate
in after-school activities
– 49% more likely to sell drugs
– 37% more likely to become teen parents
– Students who remain involved in after-school activities
throughout adolescence were more likely to go to college,
vote, and/or volunteer as adults
The Role of the Parent/Caregiver
• The parent is the key pin to a child’s success
• Research has shown that parental involvement
Increases higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates
Decreases truancy
Increases motivation and self-esteem
Decreases school suspensions
Decreases instances of violent behavior
• Additionally, the most consistent predictors of a child’s
scholastic and social success are the expectations and
satisfaction placed by the parent
Strategies for Parents/Caregivers
• A parent MUST become involved proactively in the
scholastic pursuits of the child
– Proactive ways
• Inquire to child about their personal school involvement
• Address concerns with teachers and administration
• Provide genuine positive reinforcement and/or recognition of the
scholastic achievements of the child, emphasizing the child’s strengths
• Become educated on school policy and state law for school
• Seek help through groups and organizations in situations where the
child is non-complaint or engaging in potentially high-risk behavior
• Become involved in positive community functions that will provide
extended support for the child
• Work with court-ordered and/or school recommended programs that
address truancy and/or truant behaviors – if none are offered, then
SEEK THEM OUT! Inquiry is a powerful tool.
Strategies for Parents/Caregivers
• Parents MUST take measures to progress their
own lives
• Attending support groups for substance abuse
• Attend parent counseling
– Importance of structured house routine
Re-examine the possibility of returning to school
Actively seek employment
Explore housing opportunities
ALL measures taken will work to build self-esteem
• To accomplish this, parents will need help
– Local school districts and hospitals often have the
names of organizations to connect parents
Will it Work?
• Study found that lack of parental involvement is the biggest
issue facing public schools
• Study conducted noted that through educating parents
about high-risk behaviors in children and demonstrating
and teaching methods to deal with high-risk behavior, a
significant reduction in truancy was accomplished
• Parent/family participation in a child’s academic success
was found to be 2 times more predictive than
socioeconomic status
• Study concluded that the more intensely parents are
involved, the more beneficial the achievement effects of
the child
The Role of the Community
• The community provides the backdrop that supports
• Positive, pro-social organizations
Faith based organizations
Variety of non-profits
Sports organizations
Recreational Centers
Cultural Fairs
Adult education classes
Family literacy classes
Employment opportunity classes
Strategies for Community
• Home visits from representatives for pro-social,
strengths-based organizations
• Brochures and flyers that can be distributed to the
• Word of mouth from organization members
• Non-profit organizations making themselves known as
community stakeholders by offering up free services
geared towards issues such as truancy to families in
• Improving social capital – the community must reach
out proactively to involve its own
Will it Work?
• Areas of high social capital reduce crime
• Additionally, research has shown that a child’s
development is powerfully shaped by social capital
– Trust
– Social networking (peer groups)
– Activity interest
• Research has also shown schools are more effective
when parents and children are actively involved in
community organizations
– More committed teachers
– Higher achievement scores/reduced truancy
– Increased parent interest in child’s educational well being
Collaboration of Roles
• Interconnecting the various roles in order to work
towards eliminating truant behaviors
Parent/ Caregiver
• Advantages of collaboration
– Holistic approach
– Avoid being oversensitive in one domain (truancy should
not be viewed as the majority fault of one domain, but
rather a concern of the collaborative – multiple entities)
Preventative Collaboration
• Truancy Advisory Board
– Consists of School and Community members
• Diverse
School Staff and Board Members
Judges, Magistrates, Attorneys, City Councilmen
Law Enforcement Officials
Local Business members
Faith Based Organizations
Non-Profit Agencies
Concerned community citizens of all ages
Preventative Collaboration Continued
• Regular meetings - Agenda should include:
– General truancy issues that are concerning
• Brought about by all diverse parties
– Review of current school policy as well as the legal flow
that continued truancy takes (from home notification to
dependency hearing)
– Have different community resources speak about services
they provide that would benefit truant youth
Substance abuse centers
Clothing & housing programs
Recreation centers & libraries
Teen pregnancy centers
Counseling centers
Faith Based organizations
Non-profit organizations
Preventative Collaboration Continued
– Engage/set up methods in which interconnectivity
across domains can continue
• Posters with truancy factoids spread throughout
community and school with a general hotline number
to call should a truant youth be spotted
• Truancy Task Force – community participation of those
– Regular sweeps of libraries, stores, recreation centers, etc.
– Street walks
– Watching from homes
• Hold meetings a different community outlets each time
to generate further geographical/logistical awareness
Benefits of Collaboration Across
• All contributing parties on the same page
– Common protocol
• School policy, state law, and the legal process is fully
• Encouraging various community parties to participate
– Local business
• Parents/children recognize hope and support for
various individualized issues/concerns
• Downsizing the landscape for truant youth
• Circling in on “hot spots” for truancy
• Spreading the word/issue/concern of truancy
Will it Work?
• A study of a Truancy Center that was opened
up by police in North Miami Beach found
residential burglaries and other delinquent
criminal mischief DECREASED by 19%
Summation of Eliminating Truancy
• We understand
– School connectedness
– Student awareness and involvement
– Parental support and interest
– Proactive measures of the community
– The power of collaboration
“A community working together cannot fail...”
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