Chronic absences from school affect more than a student's grades. Absenteeism and truancy are often indications of deeper issues affecting the student, the school and the community as a whole. Some school districts estimate that as many as 75 percent of chronic truants eventually drop out of school. As a result, many states have extensively studied truancy and chronic absenteeism to determine the factors that contribute to them, the risk factors often associated with truancy, and how to prevent students from skipping school.
Factors Contributing to Truancy
There is no single reason for students becoming truants. However, many factors can lead to a student's decision to repeatedly skip school. These factors can come from the school and its facilities, from the student's home life, or from personal issues the student is experiencing.
The state of America's schools can play a role in students' willingness and motivation to attend. When students feel unsafe, unchallenged, or unimportant at school, they may decide not to attend. School-related factors contributing to truancy include:
Similarly, many issues at home can make a child less likely to attend school. These factors include:
Finally, a student may be struggling with personal issues that prompt him or her to avoid school, such as:
Risks of Truancy
Truancy is seen by most experts as a bellwether indicating that a child is more likely to engage in other risky behavior. Truancy often acts as a "gateway" behavior that can lead to students trying drugs and alcohol, engaging in other criminal acts such as vandalism and theft, and ultimately dropping out of school altogether.
Strategies for Addressing Truancy
To help students avoid heading down the truancy path, many schools, organizations and government agencies have worked to develop strategies for keeping children in school. Rather than imposing ever-harsher penalties on students that usually increase truancy rather than prevent it, most successful truancy prevention programs address the factors contributing to truancy. Most truancy prevention programs include:
Legal Ramifications of Truancy
Despite the shift from punishing truants to diversion and counseling programs to help address the root causes of truancy, some students still end up in juvenile court due to their chronic truancy or poor performance in alternative programs. Although truancy laws vary by state, every state has some way to enforce truancy statutes, often by punishing chronically absent students. Truants could be put on probation or ordered to perform community service. In severe cases, judges may even sentence truants to serve in a juvenile detention facility.
Additionally, many states seek to sanction a truant's parents or guardian. States may allow judges to fine parents, order them to take parenting education classes, or participate in family counseling.