Truancy : an opportunity for early intervention
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Truancy, an unexcused absence from school, is a common, but worrisome reality for many of America’s school children. Truancy results in missed academic instruction for the student and missed state funding for schools based on average daily attendance figures. More importantly, chronic truancy can serve as one of the first indicators that a student is need of support, whether it is academic, economic, family, or personal (such as mental or physical health), before the onset of more serious delinquency. However, this early warning flag is often ignored or mismanaged, such as when truancy is criminalized and truant students and their parents receive tickets for the offense, including a large fee and early involvement with the juvenile justice system. Responses like this can further burden students and their families and cannot effectively address truancy, unless the root causes of truancy are addressed. States and school districts across the nation continue to implement programs and policies in an attempt to successfully prevent, reduce and manage truancy. Yet, information and consensus regarding the components of successful programs or policies are lacking. Without this information, jurisdictions are utilizing or attempting to implement a broad range of interventions and responses with very little attention being paid to evaluations to understand what to implement or to determine what works for youth and why. As a result, many truancy responses are just best guesses about what might work for youth, and some are even counterproductive. Failing to effectively address truancy fails youth in the short and long-term as future prospects are reduced. More information is known about what works and what does not with regard to truancy than many jurisdictions may realize. This report seeks to increase understanding of truancy and its causes, highlight the success (or lack thereof) of programs and policies, and demonstrate the wide variety of programs currently being implemented. Equipped with better information, jurisdictions can make better decisions to improve outcomes for students and their communities.