Truancy

Truancy programs focus on youth with unauthorized absences in order to prevent system involvement.  Programs can become involved with youth at different stages of absenteeism, with schools referring youth who have 5-10 unexcused absences up to the county attorney’s officer referring youth to the program when their level of absences requires legal intervention.  Truancy programs can also be part of diversion.

 
 
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Training videos

JCMS Updates

April 2018

This video reviews the changes/enhancements to the truancy screens on March 21, 2018.  These changes include: the addition of the fields "GPA", "School Attachment", and "Parental Involvement" to the intake section, creating a discharge section with discharge date and reason (previously on the screen) and adding "GPA" and "School Attachment" to the discharge section, adding "Primary Reason for Enrollment" and "Secondary Reason for Enrollment" to the intake section, and creating a "Post-Enrollment" tab to track attendance after the youth discharge from the program.

JCMS Data Entry

Changing Truancy Type

This video reviews the steps and process for moving a youth through different types of truancy programs (monitor, intervention, diversions) in JCMS.

Entering Truancy Attendance

This video goes over how to enter attendance data in the truancy screens.

 
 
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Research abstracts

General Truancy/Absenteeism Literature

Truancy Intervention Programs Challenges and Innovations to Implementation (Dembo & Gulledge, 2009)

School truancy, particularly in primary and secondary schools, represents a serious issue deserving attention in communities across the nation. Most often treated as a management and disciplinary problem, serious attention to the underlying causes of truancy is usually given after the youths’ absence from school becomes frequent or chronic. Truant youth are at considerable risk of continuing their troubled behavior in school, experiencing psychosocial difficulties, and entering the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, truancy has not received significant attention by criminologists. This article addresses three questions: (a) What kinds of truancy programs exist in the United States? (b) What evidence do we have regarding their effectiveness? (c) What system and programmatic issues present obstacles to implementing successful truancy programs and need to be considered in establishing effective programs? Finally, we discuss efforts that are underway in Hillsborough County, Florida, in implementing an effective continuum of service for truant youth and their families.

Truancy: a look at definitions in the USA and other territories. (Gentle-Genitty, et al 2015)

There is no shortage of definitions for truancy. One state may house many different definitions and there are a variety of challenges arising from this fact. One of the most important to researchers, policy-makers and educators alike, is that because of the lack of uniformity and consistency, it is difficult to compile and ascertain the totality of the phenomenon. The lack of a consistent definition influences a wide range of outcomes including policy matters, financial resources and definitive responses and intervention strategies. This manuscript attempts to synthesise the literature through the examination of operational definitions of truancy in the USA and in other territories. In addition to these operational definitions, expert opinions from focus groups proposed an enhanced definition of truancy. The study is qualitative and uses focus groups and synthesis of the literature to frame the work. Findings are presented. The goal is to synthesise the literature, not in its entirety, but in an attempt to combine and inform the conversation on a definition of truancy.

Evaluation of Truancy Diversion 9 Middle Schools (Haight, et al 2014)

Many schools are faced with the prospect of soaring absenteeism rates, despite the use of traditional truancy courts and other legal interventions. A recent trend in the literature has been to explore alternative, hybrid, and multidisciplinary approaches to address the underlying obstacles to school attendance. These programs are often integrated into schools to reduce stigma and transportation burdens on families. The present study involved an evaluation of a truancy diversion program in nine at-risk middle schools in an ethnically diverse sample. Graduates from the program demonstrated significant declines in internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. In addition, participants and their parents expressed high levels of perceived improvement in academic performance. Academic tutoring was found to differentiate program graduates from nongraduates. Results are preliminary but discussed within the context of the role of school attachment in truancy diversion programs.

Ramsey County - Truancy Intervention Program (Richtman, 2007)

Chronic truancy has far-reaching effects, both for the youth who become disconnected from school and for society. Crime, unemployment, underemployment, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and risky sexual activity have all been linked to chronic truancy. In 1995, the Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of diversion programs specifically for truants. That same year, in response to the growing truancy problem, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner directed her staff to create a program for early intervention in truancy cases. From its beginning, the goals of the Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) have been to reduce the rate of truancy, to increase school connectedness, and to improve high school graduation rates. The program has accomplished these goals and, along the way, forged strong bonds of cooperation with schools, law enforcement agencies, and service providers. Ten years after the creation of TIP, the graduation rates in the city of St. Paul, the largest school district in the county, have improved by over 50 percent; the number of students missing 15 days of school of more (excused as well as unexcused) has decreased by more than 50 percent; and a large majority of chronic truants and their families have been successfully connected to services to address underlying problems.

Impact of School Attendance, Life Course Effects (Rocque, et al 2016)

School dropout has been extensively studied in the literature as a correlate of negative life outcomes. A precursor to school dropout is truancy, the unexcused or illegitimate student absence from school. Few studies have examined the relationship between truancy and involvement in crime and adjustment more generally over the life-course. This study extends previous work by exploring whether truancy at age 12 to 14 is related to later life outcomes such as crime, aggression, and adjustment using data from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development. Results indicate that truancy has long-lasting associations with negative life outcomes, especially for nonviolent crime and problem drinking. Importantly, these findings hold for certain outcomes controlling for a comprehensive host of environmental and individual childhood risk factors.

Best Practice School Social Workers (Teasey, 2014)

The author discusses the context in which absenteeism and truancy occur through an analysis of risk and protective mechanisms and suggests best practice methods based on a review of literature and research on several successful absenteeism and truancy prevention and reduction programs. The author suggest ways that school social workers can participate in truancy prevention and reduction projects through collaborative efforts with other school professionals, community organizations, social services agencies, parents and school children.

Truancy in Germany - Theoretical Overview (Wagner, et al 2004)

The goal of this article is to describe the extent of truancy in Cologne and to identify its relevant predictors. Regarding classical deviance theories (Control Theory, Anomie Theory, Urban Subculture Theory), we generate and test our hypotheses. Our analysis is based on a sample which was conducted in 1999 by the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law. It contains information about students from grade 8. to 10. Our results show that 7,9% of all students can be defined as truants, boys skip classes more than girls, and the higher the age, the higher the prevalence of truancy. We find the highest amount of truants at Hauptschulen and Sonderschulen. It is shown that truancy is a multidimensional phenomenon and cannot be explained by just one theory.

Juvenile Diversion - Effect on Offense Targeting, Truancy Discussion (Warner, 2014)

One of the largest problems that plague the juvenile justice system today is how to better handle juvenile crime without causing the juvenile to revert back to that behavior, but still helping them understand and acknowledge the crime they have committed. The state of Minnesota has created juvenile diversion programs as an attempt to aid in that endeavor. These programs however are under researched. The goal of this article is to shed some light on what those programs look like and how some counties programs vary from other programs on other counties; specifically focusing on the variation between offense-targeting for high-risk youth. This study uses county level data collected from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the American Community Survey to answer the following question: Do programs with more high-risk youth target more severe crimes? Findings suggest that there is a significant correlation between high-risk youth and diversion programs which target more severe crimes.

 

Truancy

Assessing Reasons for School Non-attendance (Havik, et al 2015)

The aim of the present study is to assess reasons for school non-attendance including somatic symptoms, subjective health complaints, truancy, and school refusal and to investigate the relationship of these with gender, grade, and self-reported special educational needs. The study is based on a self-reported questionnaire distributed to students recruited from severe municipalities in Norway. The total sample included 5,465 students in the sixth to tenth grades. The measurement model yielded indices of good fit, and the four suggested dimensions of reasons for school non-attendance were supported. Subjective health complaints emerged as the most commonly reported reason for school non-attendance, whereas 6.2% of students reported that their nonattendance “quite often” was due to truancy- or school refusal-related reasons. There was a tendency for students who report special educational needs to report more truancy reasons and for females to report more school refusal reasons. Implications fo research and practice are discussed.

Biosocial Perspective (Petrides, et al 2005)

Background. This paper presents results from the first wave of a longitudinal study examining the effects of various psychosocial variables on scholastic achievement and behaviour at school. Aims. The main aim is to investigate the nature and strength of the effects of major individual difference dimensions on important outcome variables at school level, including academic performance, truancy, and antisocial behaviour. Samples. Data were collected from a sample of 901 pupils on verbal ability (as a proxy for cognitive ability), personality traits, and a number of behavioural indices, including academic performance at 14 and 16 years, number of authorized and unauthorized absences, and exclusions from school due to antisocial conduct. Methods. During the first stage of the study, seven schools participated in all three phases. Teachers administered a questionnaire battery in class according to a detailed protocol. Additional data were collected from school archives. Results. Analysis of the data through multi-group (male and female puplis) structural equation modelling indicated a very strong effect of verbal ability on academic performance. Extraversion and psychoticism were negatively related to academic performance, although their effects were weak and moderated by gender. Verbal ability, extraversion, and psychoticism predicted absenteeism, truancy, and exclusions from school due to disruptive conduct. The latter three were negatively associated with academic performance. Conclusions. The findings indicate that major individual difference dimensions like verbal ability and personality traits, have a strong influence on important outcome variables at school level, including academic performance, truancy, and antisocial behaviour. Without fully acknowledging the crucial role of individual differences in shaping behaviour and achievement at school, the timely identification of pupils at risk, and the development of effective intervention schemes will be difficult.

The Detrimental Effects of Missing School: Evidence from Urban Siblings (Gottfried, 2011)

There is evidence suggesting that missing school negatively relates to academic achievement. However, it is a difficult task to derive unbiased empirical estimates of absences in their influence on performance. One particular challenge arises from the unobserved heterogeneity in the family environment, which may relate to both absence behavior and school performance. This article provides the first analysis aimed at reducing the family-specific omitted variable bias pertaining to measures of absences in their influence on standardized testing achievement. It does so by employing a model of family fixed effects on a longitudinal sample of siblings within the same household in a large urban school district over six years of observations. The results indicate a stronger, statistically significant negative relationship between absences and achievement than what would have been suggested otherwise. Implications are discussed.

School Absenteeism and School Refusal Behavior in Youth; A Contemporary Review (Kearney, 2007)

Absenteeism from school is a serious public health issue for mental health professionals, physicians, and educators. The prevalence of unexcused absences from school exceeds that of major childhood behavior disorders and is a key risk factor for violence, injury, substance use, psychiatric disorders, and economic deprivation. This article involves a contemporary research review on absenteeism prevalence, comorbid physical and psychiatric conditions, classification, contextual risk factors, cross-cultural variables, assessment, intervention, and outcome. Contextual risk factors include homelessness and poverty, teenage pregnancy, school violence and victimization, school climate and connectedness, parental involvement, and family variables, among others. A description of intervention includes medical, clinical, and systemic interventions. Medical professionals, community- and school-based mental health professionals, and educators are encouraged to fully understand the parameters of school absenteeism to develop better, consensual policies regarding definition, classification, assessment, and intervention of youths with problematic school absenteeism.

Zero-Tolerance, School Yard - Squad Car (Monathan, et al 2014)

Since the 1990’s, implementation of zero tolerance policies in schools has led to increased use of school suspension and expulsion as disciplinary techniques for students with varying degrees of infractions. An unintended consequence of zero tolerance policies is that school suspension or expulsion may increase risk for contact with the juvenile justice system. In the present study, we test how forced absence from school via suspension or expulsion and chosen absence from school (truancy) are associated with the likelihood of being arrested. Using month level data from 6,636 months from a longitudinal study of delinquent adolescents (N = 1,354; 13.5 % female; 41.5 % Black, 33.5 % Hispanic-American, 20.2 % White), we compare the likelihood of being arrested, within individuals, for months when youth were and were not suspended or expelled from school and for months when youth were and were not truant. Finally, we test if these associations were moderated by stable demographic characteristics (sex, race, age, history of problem behaviors) and time varying contextual factors (peer delinquency, parental monitoring, and commitment to school). Being suspended or expelled from school increased the likelihood of arrest in that same month and this effect was stronger among youth who did not have a history of behavior problems and when youth associated with less delinquent peers. Truancy independently contributed to the likelihood of arrest, but this association was explained by differences in parental monitoring and school commitment. Thus, school disciplinary action places youth at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system and this may be especially true for less risky youth.

Review of the Literature, Truancy Intervention (Sutphen, et al 2010)

This article presents a systematic review of the literature on evaluative studies of truancy interventions. Method: Included studies evaluating truancy interventions appearing in peer-reviewed academic journals from 1990 to 2007. Findings: In total, 16 studies were assessed. Eight studies used group comparison designs and eight studies used one-group pretest/posttest designs. Studies varied on sample sizes, definitions of truant behavior, focus of interventions, and dependent measures. Conclusions: Six studies produced useful and promising interventions including contingency management, school reorganization, punitive measures, community partnerships, and family-oriented activities. The substantial methodological shortcomings, inconsistent definitions, and lack of replication demonstrate a need for more and better evaluation studies to provide a more definitive knowledge base to guide effective truancy interventions for practitioners.

 

Illness

Illness Among Schoolchildren During Influenza Season (Neuzil, et al 2002)

This article presents a systematic review of the literature on evaluative studies of truancy interventions. Method: Included studies evaluating truancy interventions appearing in peer-reviewed academic journals from 1990 to 2007. Findings: In total, 16 studies were assessed. Eight studies used group comparison designs and eight studies used one-group pretest/posttest designs. Studies varied on sample sizes, definitions of truant behavior, focus of interventions, and dependent measures. Conclusions: Six studies produced useful and promising interventions including contingency management, school reorganization, punitive measures, community partnerships, and family-oriented activities. The substantial methodological shortcomings inconsistent definitions, and lack of replication demonstrate a need for more and better evaluation studies to provide a more definitive knowledge base to guide effective truancy interventions for practitioners.

Asthma Status and Severity Affects Missed School Days (Moonie, et al 2006)

Excessive school absence disrupts learning and is a strong predictor of premature school dropout. School-aged children with asthma are absent more often compared to their healthy peers without asthma; yet, the causes are inadequately documented. We sought to determine the difference in mean absence days between children with and without asthma, the relationship between asthma severity and missed days from school, and if incident absences were due to asthma in a predominantly African American urban school district in the Midwestern United States. A cross-sectional analysis was conducted of 9014 students (grades K-12) followed for absenteeism over the 2002-2003 academic year. A subset of 543 students with asthma was assessed for asthma severity and cause of absence. Those with asthma (9.7% of students) were absent (mean ¼ 9.2 days) approximately 1.5 more days compared to those without asthma (mean ¼ 7.9 days) (p ¼ .006). In the analysis comparing asthma severity and absenteeism, after adjusting for demographic variables and enrollment time, mean days absent increased with increasing asthma severity level: mild intermittent (mean ¼ 8.5 days), mild persistent (mean ¼ 11.3 days), moderate persistent (mean ¼ 10.3 days), and severe persistent (mean ¼ 11.6 days) (p ¼ .001). Out of 1537 tracked absences that resulted from illness, 478 (31%) were due specifically to asthma-related symptoms. Children with asthma are absent from school more often compared to their healthy peers and this appears to be driven by the underlying severity of symptoms.

 

Parent Acknowledged

Engaging Truant Adolescents: Results from a Multifaceted Intervention Pilot (Desocio & Kitzsman, 2007)

A truancy intervention pilot project was implemented in an urban high school and incorporated two innovative approaches: (a) student enrollment in a school-based health center for comprehensive health services, and (b) recruitment of teachers from within the students' school to engage in mentored relationships. Students with 15 or more days of unexcused absences the preceding year were randomly assigned to a control group (n = 37) or intervention group (n = 66). Of students assigned to the intervention group, 29 consented and participated in the intervention, whereas 37 could not be enrolled. All students were in serious academic difficulty and at risk for dropping out of school: 65% were failing 6 of 8 classes and 78% were absent from class for 41 or more days during the semester prior to intervention. Students in the intervention group demonstrated a significantly greater probability of remaining in school than students in the control group (p = .027).

 

Religious, Medical, or Suspension

Menstrual Hygiene Management Amongst Schoolgirls in the Rukungiri District of Uganda and the Impact on their Education: A Cross-sectional Study (Boosey, et al 2014)

Introduction: An increasing number of studies have found that girls in low-income settings miss or struggle at school during menstruation if they are unable to manage their menstrual hygiene effectively. This study explores the menstrual hygiene practices and knowledge of girls at rural government primary schools in the Rukungiri district in Uganda and assesses the extent to which poor menstrual hygiene management (MHM) affects their education. Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was completed by schoolgirls in six government-run primary schools in the Rukungiri district. Focus groups were held with girls from each school and semi-structured interviews were conducted with head teachers and female teachers from the participating schools. A toilet assessment was also conducted in each school. Results: One hundred and forty schoolgirls completed the questionnaire. The girls reported a lack of access to adequate resources, facilities and accurate information to manage their menstrual hygiene effectively at school. They reported that, as a result, during menstruation they often struggle at school or miss school. Eighty six girls (61.7%) reported missing school each month for menstrual-related reasons (mean 1.64, range 0-10, SD. 1.84). Conclusion: It is common for girls who attend government-run primary schools in the Rukungiri district to miss school or struggle in lessons during menstruation becausenthey do not have access to the resources, facilities, or information they need to manage for effective MHM. This is likely to have detrimental effects on their education and future prospects. A large-scale study is needed to explore the extent of this issue.

Addressing the Effects of Missing School for Children with Medical Needs (Eaton, 2012)

Children missing school due to medical treatment is not a new concern. Over one million children 5 through 17 years of age are hospitalized in the U.S. each year (Elixhauser, 2008). Illness severe enough to require hospitalization is often preceded by missed days of school; thus, it will also entail additional days missed as children recover after discharge. Even a brief hospitalization can be disruptive to a child’s education. In response to learning that many patients were concerned about falling behind in their education, Cardon Children’s Medical Center developed and launched Cardon Children’s School: A Bridge to Academic Excellence for Children with Medical Needs. Steps taken to identify the problem, convene a task force, reach out to the community, fund and recruit teachers, and document the unique academic assistance provided to patients are described in detail. Cardon Children’s Medical Center has demonstrated that medical and educational institutions must collaborate together with our communities to raise awareness and provide continued assistance and support to children facing this issue.

Both Suspension and Alternatives Work, Depending on One's Aim (Bear, 2012)

In this commentary on the special series, I argue that whereas a zero-tolerance approach to school discipline is “something stupid” (Kauffman & Brigham, 2000), the use of suspension might not be. Despite its limitations, suspension and other forms of punishment serve as effective deterrents of behavior problems for most children, especially when they are combined with positive and proactive alternatives to suspension. Too often, advocates of those alternatives fail to recognize why suspension is valued by educators, while also making the mistake of advocating for alternatives that have their own limitations and share the same aim of suspension— obedience and compliance to adults and rules. Typically, those alternatives are less effective and efficient than suspension in achieving that aim. Thus, educators reject them. Instead of advocating for the elimination of the use of suspension, it might be wiser for researchers to advocate for a combination of evidence- based techniques (both positive and punitive) that not only prevent and reduce behavior problems but also foster self-discipline and a positive school climate.

Menstruation and School Absenteeism: Evidence from Rural Malawi (Grant, et al 2015)

The provision of toilets and menstrual supplies has emerged as a promising programmatic strategy to support adolescent girls’ school attendance and performance in less developed countries. We use the first round of the Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Survey (MSAS) to examine the individual- and school-level factors associated with menstruation-related school absenteeism. The MSAS is a school-based longitudinal survey of adolescent students enrolled in coed public primary schools in the southern districts of Machinga and Balaka who were aged 14–16 in 2007. Although one-third of female students report missing at least one day of school at their last menstrual period, our data suggest that menstruation only accounts for a small proportion of all female absenteeism and does not create a gender gap in absenteeism. We find no evidence for school-level variance in menstruation-related absenteeism, suggesting that absenteeism is not sensitive to school environments. Rather, co-residence with a grandmother and spending time on school work at home reduce the odds of absence during the last menstrual period.