Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Does Truancy Court Work?

In the article, 'Truancy Court' Program Focuses On Intervention, Not Prosecution, officials hope to reduce truancy and drop out rates. “’I can't remember the last violent crime case I prosecuted where the person graduated high school,’ 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy...When a student misses multiple days, truancy officers will investigate and create a plan of intervention rather than sending the student or parents directly to a judge. ‘We're not going to suggest changes, we're going to require them,’ Owings said. ‘If they don't do what truancy courts ask them to do, they will be referred for prosecution.’”

I think this is a great idea but I hope they are involving school personnel in this process. Too many times there are great ideas and great hopes, but all of the people who need to be involved are not considered. I know from experience because my husband is a retired judge and has strongly encouraged people to return to school for an education. I told him that there needs to be accountability involved and just returning is not enough. Someone needs to tell these people that they need to be on good behavior, not be disruptive, complete assigned tasks in addition to just showing up. I guess many people assume that if the student returns to school, all of this will just fall in line.

I wonder if anyone is looking at the cause of truancy because if the factors don’t change, then the behaviors won’t in the long run. Fear of jail time might get a student to be in attendance but what about the disruptions that can occur. What about the students that want to be there and learn but the teacher is having to devote time to deal with the disruptive student who is required to be there. I had a 14 year old student with autism who was very large and strong physically. On days he didn’t want to come to school, the parents were at a loss as to how to get him to school. They would take turns staying at home with him. Should the parents be penalized when they are already traumatized by having a disabled child? Would putting this student in jail solve anything?

This article doesn’t go into depth about the full program or how it is implemented but it made me have a lot of questions. It scares me that we have policy makers making decisions when the only time they were in a school was as a student. I wish we could get more of these policy makers in our classrooms so they get a picture of what life is really like in a classroom. I feel that a connection between policy makers, officials, school personnel and even parents needs to be made in order for any program to be successful.

What do you think? Do you think this will have a positive effect on the students? Will it solve our truancy problem? How will it affect schools? Maybe you have this in your area and it works. I ‘d love to hear from you!

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