Truancy is the first sign of trouble; the first indicator that a young person is giving up and losing his or her way. When young people start skipping school, they are telling their parents, school officials and the community at large that they are in tr ouble and need our help if they are to keep moving forward in life.
Research data tells us that students who become truant and eventually drop out of school put themselves at a long term disadvantage in becoming productive citizens. High school dropouts, for example, are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates. In 1995, high school dropouts were almost twice as likely to be unemployed as high school graduates. In addition, high school dropouts who are employed earn much lower salaries. Students who become truant and eventually drop out of high school too often set themselves up for a life of struggle.
Truancy is a nationwide problem.
“High rates of truancy are linked to high daytime burglary rates and high vandalism. According to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, truancy is the most powerful predictor of juvenile delinquent behavior. “I’ve never seen a gang member who wasn’t a truant first,” says California District Attorney Kim Menninger. Truancy prevention efforts should be a part of any community policing effort to prevent crime before it happens.
During a recent sample period in Miami more than 71 percent of 13 to 16 year-olds prosecuted for criminal violations had been truant.
In Minneapolis, daytime crime dropped 68 percent after police began citing truant students.
In San Diego, 44 percent of violent juvenile crime occurs between 8:30 a.m . and 1:30 p.m.
While no national data on the extent of truancy exists, we know that in some cities unexcused absences can number in the thousands each day. In Pittsburgh, for example, each day approximately 3,500 students or 12 percent of the pupil population is absent and about 70 percent of these absences are unexcused. In Philadelphia, approximately 2,500 students a day are absent without an excuse. In Milwaukee, on any given school day, there are approximately 4,000 unexcused absences.”
“Research demonstrates that although truancy proceedings can increase a child’s school attendance in the short term, answering to a judge for school absence does not help students graduate from high school or avoid crime. A 2011 study from the Washington State Center for Court Research compared high school students who received truancy summons with kids who had the same number of unexcused absences and similar grades, but who were not called into court. The students in court experienced more subsequent absences than the ones who avoided law enforcement; they also received lower grades, and were more likely to drop out of school or be charged with a crime.”