EXPLORING THE ISSUE OFTRUANCY 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: • UNEXCUSED ABSENCE FROM SCHOOL • “Truancy” is actually an abstract term: • Not physical/tangible • Rather, represents a spectrum of underlying issues • Issues can be categorized into domains • Personal/Psychological • School/Social • Home/Family • Community/Economic
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 schools • 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 problems • Health problems • Psychological issues Depression, ADHD, Autism, ODD • Identification issues Sexual preference • Attention issues • Substance use Drugs, Alcohol
School/Social Domain • Bullying • Safety concerns • Low academic scores • Negative peer pressure • Negative behavior/suspension • Conflicts with teachers • School size • Lack of adherence to school policy OR unknowledgeable of school policy • Boredom • Irrelevant Courses
Home/ Family Domain • Needing to care for family members • Lack of parental scholastic support • Substance abuse in home • Domestic violence • Lack of knowledge of school policy • Living in poverty • Need to financially support family • Minimal parental/adult supervision • 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 hopelessness • Transportation issues • Lack of social capital – minimal social connecting – increased isolation
Interconnectivity • Interconnectivity – one domain issue often sets off other domain issues, creating a NEGATIVE CYCLE that perpetuates truancy Personal/Psychological Home/Family Community/Economic School/Social
Interconnectivity Example • Example: • Jane Doe • Scenario: -Minimal parental attention (Home/Family) LEADS TO poor hygiene, poor diet, low self image (Personal/Psychological) LEADS TO bullying issue and negative peer pressure at school, resulting in suspension (School/Social) LEADS TO illegal activity in the community during suspension day to make money (Community/Economic) LEADS TO 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” behaviors • 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 Statistics • 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-of- home 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 communities • 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 public • 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 • Cigarettes • Marijuana • Alcohol • Inhalants • Illegal hard drugs
High Correlation to Unwanted Teen Pregnancy • 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” factors • Falling behind academically – repeating a grade • Minimal connection to peers or school staff – low social competence • 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 non-truants.
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 played? • 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 absences • 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 filed
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 dependent • 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 behaviors • 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 learning • 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 support • 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 • Bullying • 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, etc.
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 self-esteem) • 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 attendance • 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