truancy in the news, part two

Truancy is a crime created by the mass coerced school system.  As the social structure of American society has changed in the past 100 years, schools have not adapted to their enlarged role in society because they have not had any structural reason to do so: compulsory attendance guarantees a structure that builds out based on no input, like a business with guaranteed but silent customers. Schools have no built-in mechanism for relating to students and families. 

Indeed, we can see in these links how schools in the past few decades have reacted to a changing user base (changes driven by declining wages) by creating an in-house police force instead of developing deeper ways to work with students and families. This is not how a public social service supported by families and for families should be structured.  An education system that doesn't relate to the people who use the service cannot be effective on any level. 

Parents say Loudoun officials reaching too far to stop school tardies - The Washington Post:
Other times, the situation escalates. On Jan. 21, Loudoun mother Maureen Blake was arrested and charged with “contributing to the delinquency of her minor children by causing them to be habitually late to school,” according to court documents.

This was her second go-round in the courts for tardiness, she said, and now she faces a Class 1 misdemeanor that can carry a maximum of 12 months in jail.

Across the country, some states and local jurisdictions have begun to move away from a punitive approach to enforcing attendance rules. Police in Los Angeles had been issuing $250 truancy tickets to tardy students until recent months, when the policy was scaled back in response to an uprising by parents and activists.

“Punitive discipline leads to a higher dropout rate, more hostility in schools, it leads to kids disengaging from learning and it alienates parents,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that has advocated against harsh school discipline. “It is counter to everything that we know should be done.”

Other states have doubled down. An unusually strong Nebraska law passed in 2010 requires schools to refer students to the county attorney general after 20 absences, whether they’re excused or unexcused. The state commissioner of education, Roger Breed, has hailed the measure for shrinking the number of children who are chronically absent.

In Loudoun, some parents said the school system might accomplish more — with fewer dollars — by adopting a softer approach.

Ed Croft, Parent Teacher Organization treasurer at Waterford, received a certified letter in November from a county truancy officer warning of possible legal consequences. His first-grade son had been tardy 11 times, he said — usually by only a few minutes.

He said he and his wife have been more careful since then, but they’re still not perfect. They overslept last week and their son was late to school — and Croft worries that at some point, another tardy will trigger a court referral.

“If they’re going after the Denicores, they could easily go after me,” Croft said. “They’re just casting a wide net.”

Honors student jailed for truancy invited to Stanford leadership conference | Houston: "HOUSTON – Diane Tran, the Willis High School honors student who was thrown in jail last spring for missing too much school, is now attending a leadership conference at Stanford University."

Judge in Diane Tran case: I will continue to be tough on truancy | Houston: "Despite the
reversal of the contempt charge in the Tran case, Moriarty said he plans to continue to be tough on truancy.

"I will continue to hold students, and sometimes parents, accountable for unexcused absences as we work to reduce truancy, lower the dropout rate, and instill in tomorrow’s leaders the belief that rules and laws must be followed by all for society to properly function," Moriarty wrote."

2.8 million school absences erased | The Columbus Dispatch: "Columbus City Schools officials wiped 2.8 million student absence days off the district’s computers during the past 51/2 school years, with some key officials responsible for tens of thousands of deletions.

The officials routinely erased more recorded student absences than they reported to the state — in some years, substantially more — according to district data tables The Dispatch obtained by filing a public-records request."

Mass. bill aims to help troubled kids, families - "But educators have expressed concerns over the legislation's requirement for school districts to create programs that deter children from missing school.

Mike Gilbert, from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees a group that represents and advocates for the interests of school leaders, called the requirement "another unfunded mandate."

Gilbert said that schools are already struggling with funding, especially those in urban districts where truancy is a large issue. He added that, by law, schools are required to have a truancy officer."

Disappointing city test scores - Baltimore Sun: "Educators could start by focusing on three areas where a new infusion of energy and talent might make a difference. They include further and sustained reductions in the number of out-of-school suspensions; a new and concerted push to coax truant student students back to the classroom; and more intensive efforts to tackle the problem of chronic absences. All of them will depend in one way or another on improving the overall physical and social environment schools offer their communities."

Mr. Alonso has already asked principals to devise alternatives to suspension for their most troublesome youngsters. Kicking kids out doesn't make the problem go away, because when suspended students come back they bring their old problems back with them, sometimes along with new ones. In-school suspension, after-school detention and weekend detention are just a few of the ways teachers can discipline students without depriving them of valuable instructional time.

Truants are, by definition, not in the classroom and therefore out of the reach of educators unless they are willing to track them down and persuade them to come back to school. This traditionally was the job of truant officers, whose function was more punitive than educational, but the city might get better results sending adults with whom a kid already has established a relationship of trust and respect.

Some kids are absent not because they are truants but because they have some chronic medical conditions such as asthma or migraines that keeps them out of class. Others don't attend regularly because they are victims of abuse or homelessness, or are taking care of family members. These are the toughest cases for educators because getting such children back into school involves providing medical, dental, counseling and other services before they can even begin to think about concentrating on school. That's hard to do if teachers and principals have no idea of what's going on in a kid's life, and it puts an additional burden on personnel to act in loco parentis. But it may be the only way to get some kids back to class.

The Center for Public Integrity: Los Angeles school police chief rethinking discipline policy: "In response to controversy over court citations to students as young as 10, the police chief of Los Angeles' largest school district said he's working with school officials to reduce such tickets and establish, by mid-August, more out-of-court counseling options for kids who are cited.

But Chief Steven Zipperman, who leads the nation's largest school police force, defended his 340 sworn officers' authority to issue citations when officers believe it's appropriate. Students have been cited for everything from truancy to vandalism to possessing a marker that could be used for graffiti. They've also been summoned to court for jaywalking, cigarette and pot smoking. Large numbers of students have additionally been cited for fisticuffs and for being disruptive inside and outside school.  "

Make the Grade - | News, sports, jobs, community information for Martinsburg - The Journal: "Nearly 80,000 public school students in West Virginia - about 20 percent of the total - met the definition of "truant" during the 2011-12 school year, according to state officials. That is, each of them missed five or more days of school in absences that were not excused.

Nearly 10 percent of the public school population, about 29,000 students, had 10 or more days of unexcused absences.

Dropout and Truancy Prevention Network (DTPN)
Who pays for the RBT?

Most school districts pay for the program from operating funds. This is because the recaptured Weighted Average Daily Attendance revenue usually more than pays for the program.

  • Other sources of funds are:
  • Court budgets (including especially fine revenue)
  • State and Federal grants for dropout prevention, student performance and truancy prevention.
  • User (family) pay — from fine revenue
  • Private sponsorship (e.g. corporate or Chamber of Commerce)
Once communities understand the effectiveness of the RBT, they get very creative about paying for it. There are few opportunities in life that truly "pay for themselves" but this is one of them.
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