Truancy is a significant problem that can escalate quickly. Peer pressure, along with academic and personal struggles, can make your teen feel like school just isn't a top priority. In addition to the fact that they are missing out on educational material in school, the Colorado Compulsory School Attendance Law (C.R.S. 22-13-104), mandates that all children between the ages of 6 and 17 be in school. Choosing not to attend on a regular basis can mean legal trouble for both your child and possibly you as their legal guardian. Click here to view the staute regarding attendance in Colorado.
Before I became a therapist I worked for several years as a truancy paralegal for schools in the Denver metro area. I saw hundreds of students go through the truancy system. Out of all of those children I can honestly say I know of two that had lives that were great in every other area and were simply not choosing to go to school. All of the rest were not going to school because of a combination of issues that had compounded over the years into something that cannot be changed simply by a judge telling you to go to school.
Barriers facing truant youth are significant and often multifaceted. Data from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Truancy Reduction Demonstration Programs showed that of the 634 students participating
87 percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunch
36 percent lived with only one adult in the home
20 percent lived with no working adult in the home
19 percent had individual education plans
15 percent had school discipline problems at program intake
13 percent had juvenile justice involvement (Finlay 2006b)
In one informal tally carried out in a truancy court in Denver in 2003, of the 40 truancy cases heard that 1 day, only 3 cases involved no major, identifiable issue other than truancy; more than half had prior referrals to the Department of Human Services; and approximately 30 percent were classified as incorrigible/ungovernable (Heilbrunn 2004).
The self-reported reasons for truancy vary considerably, and studies show that dropouts are not a homogenous group (Hammond et al. 2007). According to focus groups at truancy reduction sites, youths reported various reasons for their truancy, including getting behind in school and work, which often initiated a cycle of chronic absenteeism; being bored; a school environment with uncaring adults and teachers; poor relationships with teachers; bullying; and disrespect from staff (Attwood and Croll 2006; Gonzales, Richards, and Seeley 2002). Students and school staff often disagree on the reasons for truancy. In one survey, students cited boredom, loss of interest in school, irrelevant courses, suspensions, and bad relationships with teachers as major factors leading to the decision to skip school. In contrast, school staff believed truancy to be related to students’ problems with their families and peers (DeKalb 1999).
If your child's school is calling to report a significant number of absences or has told you that court involvement is pending, please do not wait to get help! Counseling can help both you and your child to understand the reasons behind missing school. If your child is already involved in truancy court, counseling will not only help, but will show the court that you are taking stpes to correct the issues behind your child's attendance problems.
Information obtained from http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/progTypesTruancy.aspx
Truancy Groups for Schools
Is your school struggling with absenteeism? Truancy groups can have remarkable results for teens, and can be implemented as part of an early intervention plan or as a supplement to an existing truancy program. Teens who have not responded to attendance contracts or truancy court may benefit from being in a structured, safe environment where peer pressure can be utilized in a positive way. Groups have the advantage of meeting weekly, addressing problems or concerns quickly and drawing on the support of others to offer the students consistent and regular feedback about their attendance habits. Weekly meetings also help to hold the students accountable for their actions and decisions - they are choosing not to go school, so ultimately the choice to attend will also be theirs. Having worked in the truancy court setting for several years I have a good grasp of what works and what doesn't when it comes to encouraging teens to go to school. Contact me to find out if a truancy group or workshop could benefit your school!