Archive for Friday, March 7, 2008

Trouble with truancy

Crackdown on absenteeism not only answer to problem

March 7, 2008


Reader poll
Do you think that Lawrence schools could be doing more to reduce truancy?

or See the results without voting


Lawrence schools overall have a good track record on student attendance compared with other districts in the state.

But school administrators, staff and law enforcement still aren't shy about flexing their muscles when it comes to truancy.

So far this school year, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson's office has filed 50 new "Child in Need of Care" court cases for 16- and 17-year-old Lawrence students, which has forced parents to deal immediately with the issue.

High school administrators approached Branson in January 2006 about getting tougher on truancy, and LHS Associate Principal Matt Brungardt said the program is better now.

But it still can be a work in progress to reach students in the most severe cases.

"The benefit of it is it does force family members to engage with us," Brungardt said.

Positive reinforcement

Angie Logan says she has seen students make a turnaround from the truancy list to the honor roll.

But the Lawrence High School social worker said school administrators and staff members still have plenty of work to do at curbing student absences.

"We need to figure out ways to better engage students. Our system is kind of old, and we need to update the way we do things," said Logan, who is also a Kansas University social welfare graduate student.

On average, the highest absence rates this school year have been at schools that have the highest population of students whose families qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches, according to the school district.

But overall, the Lawrence district does well compared to statewide numbers, as in 2006-2007 when the district's 96.1 percent attendance rate was 43rd among all Kansas districts.

School board member Scott Morgan said it is important to watch attendance rate numbers to look for trends.

"The reason it matters is because everything else is pointless if the kid doesn't show up," Morgan said.

LHS English teacher Jeff Plinsky said with more accountability being placed on schools and teachers, it is also a responsibility for families and students to make sure teachers have someone to instruct.

"If that student isn't coming to class, it's very difficult for us to teach them," he said.

At elementary schools, administrators also tap into resources to work with families who have chronically absent students, said New York School Principal Nancy DeGarmo.

Schools are accountable each year for attendance rates, and they work to keep improving each year, she said.

It is logical for illness to account for a certain percentage, but principals work to curb other absences. Especially at schools with more lower-income families, it can require working with them on finding rides to school or even temporarily providing city bus passes if the family car breaks down, DeGarmo said.

"It's just a matter of finding out what the parent needs," she said.

Truancy measures

Douglas County has also benefited from a longtime Truancy Diversion Program that pairs Kansas University student caseworkers with families, DeGarmo said.

But high school administrators asked Branson's office to get tougher on truancy because it gave them stricter measures to work with 16- and 17-year-old students who weren't complying with the diversion.

Free State High School Assistant Principal Mike Hill said administrators have also seen a decrease in truant students since the tougher measures were in place, but it is also important for school and law enforcement to use "the carrot" to help students in addition to "the stick" for appropriate cases.

According to district policy, truancy constitutes three consecutive unexcused absences, any five in a semester or seven in one year. Junior high and high school students get an unexcused absence for missing one class, and elementary students get them if they miss one hour or more.

"We have personnel who reach out to kids on all sorts of different levels to make them feel welcome here," Hill said.

Schools and law enforcement also help some truant students enroll in other programs, like signing up to take the General Education Development test.

Logan, the LHS social worker, said staff members still need to come up with resources and a better way to provide positive reinforcement for students flagged for truancy. Often, staff members are forced to pay for the rewards out of their own pocket, which means they can't do it as frequently.

She and LHS Assistant Principal Beryl New are part of a school committee studying the issue, and they have recruited 21 teachers to help. Logan said the group would likely end up writing a grant application to gain resources to do more positive reinforcement with truant students.

"We need to find ways to engage students that work," she said.


KsTwister 10 years, 1 month ago

Just remember, it was their decision to eliminate the alternative high school.

cowboy 10 years, 1 month ago

this seems a joke , five years ago when i had a son in lhs they could care less whether the kids showed up or not , no disciplinary action at all , maybe things have changed but i doubt it.

The kids have too much freedom and as parents it is truly difficult to turn these situations around once they get rolling.A no tolerance policy would be a step in the right direction and an accelerated GED program for at risk kids . Seems funny that many of these kids can pass a GED with flying colors as mine did and get on with their lifes instead of spending a couple years meandering thru the HS system.

You can lay blame on the parents but in our case we had three honor students and one who was , well , a bit of a challenge. There needs to be a way to get these kids thru quickly be it online , in school GED programs , or face up to the fact we need a comprehensive world class vo-tech program school for our non college bound kids.

Godot 10 years, 1 month ago

Used to be that the punishment for truancy was bad grades, not moving up in class, not graduating. Now it is criminal to miss school? Unbelievable.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 1 month ago

"Now it is criminal to miss school? Unbelievable."

Well, it's been that way for awhile. For example..... History: L. 1874, ch. 123, § 1; L. 1903, ch. 423, § 1; L. 1919, ch. 272, § 1; L. 1923, ch. 182, § 1; R.S. 1923, 72-4801; L. 1965, ch. 409, § 1; L. 1968, ch. 356, § 1; L. 1969, ch. 316, § 1; L. 1976, ch. 310, § 1; L. 1980, ch. 217, § 3; L. 1984, ch. 263, § 1; L. 1996, ch. 229, § 121; L. 1997, ch. 157, § 1; Revived and Amend., L. 2004, ch. 185, § 1; June 10. 72-1111. Compulsory school attendance;

justthefacts 10 years, 1 month ago

The drop out rate in Kansas is 3% higher then it is nationally. 34 and 37 respectively. If, for any reason, a person does not get a high-school eduation, our system punishes not only them, but all of us; we end up paying for the costs that result - increased incarcertation rates, health care at emergency wards, welfare programs, etc. It behooves society to either (a) do all it can to get people trained (not educated) to be contributing members of society or (b) not pick up the resulting costs. When vo-tech type classes are taught in Kansas prisons, the recidivism rate goes from 2 in every 3 to 1 in every 3. That means one less person in each 3 who become self (and family) supporting and says volumes about why society's supporting vo-tech training can change lives and society!

Jean1183 10 years, 1 month ago

About 9 years ago, I got a call from LHS attendance office. Seems the son had missed his first hour of class. I drove to school and had them check to see if he was there. Yep....he had showed up for second hour. I had him called out of class.

The story I got was his buddy (who he gave a ride too each day) had overslept and was not ready when he got there. They decided to just miss 1st hour.

During hall passing and in front of God & everybody he got the chewing out of his life. I told him that if that EVER happened again, he better get his happy little butt to school and let his buddy worry about his own attendance. It never happened again.

There is something to be said for the embarassment factor. I'm one of those moms who would make their kid wear the sign saying "I'm stupid, I ..........."

booze_buds_03 10 years, 1 month ago

You are also probably one of those moms that their kids dislike very much.

average 10 years, 1 month ago

justthefacts -

It is worth pointing out that some states (most notably Texas while Bush was governor) wildly under-report dropout rates. Check into the "Texas Miracle" some time.

akt2 10 years, 1 month ago

I would/will personally take my child to school and sit in class with her everyday if that is what it takes. I will also be putting a global tracking system on her vehicle when she is old enough to drive herself. So what if she is embarrassed. And so what if she doesn't like me for it. It is not my job as a parent to be the best friend. However it is my responsibilty to know where she is, keep her safe, and to make sure she has her happy little butt in school.

Jock Navels 10 years, 1 month ago

booze-buds....when your kid is a teenager, it doesn't matter whether or not they "like" you very matters whether they respect you. the "like", and the love will be there. i taught school for 27 years and raised 2 kids....i'm glad to see finally somebody putting the ultimate responsibility for the kid's education right where it belongs-on the parents. it is not the school's responsibility to train people to be productive economic units. it is the school's responsibility to educate future citizens so they can be rational participants in a republic.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 1 month ago

The last I heard, compulsory schooling was only to the age of 16, so how is it possible for them to bring action against 16 & 17 year olds?

Confrontation 10 years, 1 month ago

Jean1183: Thank you for being one of the few parents who actually cares about their child's future! Being your child's best friend is completely immature on the parent's part and not an asset to any child. Parents like to make excuses and will blame everyone other than themselves.

Steve Mechels 10 years, 1 month ago

Jocknavals, thanks for your beat me to it!

Boozebuds, I will counter that if you have kids and all you care about is them liking you, you are part of the problem. It is the responsibility of parents to love, guide and teach their children. They may not always "like" you for doing it, but you have to remember they aren't not fully developed, emotionally or physically. That is where the parent's role is important (hopefully based upon good experience and education).

Maybe you have a problem with a parent chastising their child in public and that is why you wrote the comment you did. Somehow I doubt that the child suffered any long term emotional harm or embarrassment; more likely it helped strengthen his character in the long run. It appears it took care of the truancy problem

BigPrune 10 years, 1 month ago

Do away with half day Wednesdays, then the children and parents would think more seriously about school. Half days every week kind of makes me think the school district doesn't think it's a big deal if kids don't go. Letting older kids roam free for an afternoon every week is asking for trouble.

georgeofwesternkansas 10 years, 1 month ago

We can spend every penny we have on education, but nothing will change until parents make education the most important thing in their childrens lives.

I posted this eariler in the week, and by the responses you would have thought I killed someone.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 1 month ago

The school district and parents perhaps could effect truancy if both demanded a new curriculum that would teach the whole child thus be more interesting and sometimes fun.

One such program does exist:

No child left behind does nothing to stimulate learning in young brilliant minds.

The problem of truancy is not truly a problem for the school district but for parents. It is the parents job.

JOCO junior college is busy trying to set up Vo-Tech type classes in Lawrence which prevents Lawrence from reinventing the wheel. Flood them with emails requesting more of their expertise in Lawrence.

notajayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

Could be much, much worse.

Years ago I knew a deputy juvenile officer in KCMO. She went to check up on one of her charges in school, and he wasn't there. She went to the office and was told the kid had perfect attendance according to their records. She repeated: "He's not here." And was told again that he had perfect attendance! Apparently in the KCMO school district, physical presence is not required for attendance.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 1 month ago

The last I heard, compulsory schooling was only to the age of 16, so how is it possible for them to bring action against 16 & 17 year olds?

===== The legislature raised the age to 18 a few years back. Students between 16 and 18 can drop out if their parent/s attend a required conference with the principal and go over a few things, such as alternative programs and earnings potential for various levels of education.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 1 month ago

BigPrune (Anonymous) says: Do away with half day Wednesdays, then the children and parents would think more seriously about school. Half days every week kind of makes me think the school district doesn't think it's a big deal if kids don't go. Letting older kids roam free for an afternoon every week is asking for trouble.

Obviously you need to pay attention more, either that or your students has lied to you. The students only get out a couple of hours early, not a half day. Also it's only the elementary and some Jr. highs that get out early. LHS (I don't know about FS) has late arrival about once a month, because secondary teachers don't need as much collaboration time as elementary teachers.

Afroman 10 years, 1 month ago

I think that you all might be forgetting that back when many of the now parents were students in high school the rules were very very slack. Things from pranks, absences, and other lax codes of conduct. Kids today do not need to be restrained anymore than you all did back then. Doing that will just invoke more intense rebellions from the students. It just doesn't make any sense for teachers and those associated with the school to tell us to work for independence, to reach out, nor to try and discover who each one of us (students) are as people when we are being constricted each and every way we turn. Realize that the most compelling and ingenius people to ever walk this earth were not the best in the beginnings of their educations. While it is true that we as students need to accept a general and vast foundation for our future educations in college or specialized colleges. However, forcing rules on top of the rising expectations of youth will eventually hinder instead of propel them into success. As a high school student, I came to realize that wither we were forced into a class, a way of acting, or against a way of doing something had a signifigant affect on wither I would take it later on in life. This from a football player, choir member, and band student as well as S.T.A.T (Students Teaching Against Tobacco), Bullies 2 Buddies, FYI, Student Council, and proud graduate of Free State High School. Be careful to judge or enforce rules unless you would undergo them, or would have when you were in high school. Therefore the reaction will be no surprise to you; negative or positive.

notajayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

Afroman (Anonymous) says:

"I think that you all might be forgetting that back when many of the now parents were students in high school the rules were very very slack."

As well as very very unnecessary. Our parents made darned sure we went to school, the truant officer was the absolute least of our problems if we didn't do so.

been_there 10 years, 1 month ago

If you are paying child support and the kid drops out you might not be required to pay child support. This might get the custodial parent to think twice before letting them drop out. I believe they also cannot get welfare and public housing for kids that drop out. Take away their drivers license.

geekin_topekan 10 years, 1 month ago

What about all them danged ol' mexicans up on the hill takin all the cheap education?I really hate to see some iimigrant put our American kids to shame!

Kat Christian 10 years, 1 month ago

Charge the parents of repeat skippers a fine if they can't get their kids to stay in school. It should ultimately be the parents responsiblity to see their kids attend school. If they need help they should have a resource they can contact to help them with their teens. I don't believe in taking away the responsiblity the parents should be doing it only enables them.

Buggie7 10 years, 1 month ago

I agree with the embarrassment and the fact that the lady above did what she thought was best by raising her voice in front of his friends. I keep telling my son to quit worrying about everyone else and just worry about yourself. It isnt about being their friend and whether or not they like you. Its about being their parent. There are alot of parents though that just give in if a child doesnt want to go. My kids have a spring skip day and a fall skip day. They have to stay home or somewhere with either their dad or I and have no exams that day. Other than that they can choose the day. Their grades have to be acceptable. They have to have excellent attendance otherwise. To me its their incentive and they really go with that. My first son graduated a presidental scholar my second is a Junior and doing well and my other son never asks for his skip days. That might sound like a bad idea to alot of you folks but for my neices and nephews and my own children it helps cause they work their butt off at school and at attending so they can have one day off a season and have a parent and child day to do what they want to do. I agree with the comment posted about the early wednesdays. My children do not go to Lawrence but when Im there on Wednesday afternoons there are so many children out and about without any supervsion and they are very desrespectful of people and property and believe they can get away with it cause mom or dad or both is at work. Wednesday afternoons(I have family that attent Lawrence Schools) are just a time that the kids are let loose and unless there is a stay at home parent or daycare involved these kids are either by themselves or out and bored so they are causeing some kind of chaos.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 1 month ago

"I think that you all might be forgetting that back when many of the now parents were students in high school the rules were very very slack."

I'm not sure how old you are, but when I went to school, if you skipped, you spent several days after school, and that is mild compared to what your parents would do to you. The only kids who skipped or talked back to the teachers were the hoods. Of course, now we have parents who want to be cool, instead of the adult. As a teacher I can tell which parents are doing their jobs. I had one student whose parent rewarded him for failing all his classes by getting him a tatoo. Then you have parents who can't seem to plan their vacations in the summer, so they just take their kids out of school. My parents would never have done that. Many parents nowadays are wimps. Rather than arguing with their student, they just give in. Not all parents are like this, but there is a much larger percentage. The kids run the house, not the adults.

Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 1 month ago

sunshine_noise (Anonymous) says:

Charge the parents of repeat skippers a fine if they can't get their kids to stay in school. It should ultimately be the parents responsiblity to see their kids attend school. If they need help they should have a resource they can contact to help them with their teens. I don't believe in taking away the responsiblity the parents should be doing it only enables them.

I don't believe in taking away that responsibility either. When a truancy is filed on a child by the school district, it is filed with the DA. The parents ARE held responsibile and have to appear in court.

been_there 10 years, 1 month ago

The article also discusses elementary school. If a child is missing a lot of school chances are they are unhappy about something going on at school. Years ago a study came out saying that a child's kindergarden experience determined whether they would like school or not. My daughter was so looking forward to kindergarden but it was soon evident something was wrong. She kept saying the teacher didn't like her so I started spending more time there and walking her in and out. Now my daughter always followed the rules and never misbehaved but it soon became evident the teacher did not like her. One day when we got home she ran and got some paper and crayons to draw the teacher a picture. Another girl had brought a picture and the teacher gave her a hug and gushed over the drawing. The next morning she proudly went to the teacher who just waved her away and said to put it on the desk. You could she totally crushed, all she wanted was for the teacher to like her. My daughter never told a lie, went when she would go to the teacher with a problem she would say she was lying. She never got to be line leader or picked for errands. By the second semester I decided to enroll her in a preschool kindergarden for the other half of the day. The first day she got in the car and turned to me and said with wonder "mom, they didn't yell at me". The progress reports for both kindergardens that semester where totally different. Needless to say she hated school till she got to college.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the schools want to cut down on truancy they need to start in kindergarden. If they get complaints about the teacher (there were many over the years) then reasign her to a higher grade. Sorry about the long post---touched a nerve

WHY 10 years, 1 month ago

I have a child and I will tell him that high school is the most ridiculous 4 years of life. He should have fun, skip school on sunny days, and not get caught up in the day to day sh*& of teenage life. I nearly failed high school and now I am a University of Kansas graduate who has been accepted into two law schools. I skipped plenty of days and what did I miss. Well, there was gym class, study hall seminar, English for the mentally impaired, and trig (which I admit I never figured out).

Godot 10 years, 1 month ago

How things progress: first, government shall provide the opportunity for every child to receive an education; then, the government requires every child to have an education at least to eighth grade; then government encourages every child to complete 12th grade by offering GED as an alternative; the government encourages all children to obtain a college degree, and gives said children "loans" to pay for it; then government requires children to complete high school, under penalty of criminal conviction at the same time it overlooks the illegal status of children who were not born in this country and whose parents who came here without completing the required paperwork and gives them a preferred status to attend college universities over children who are legal residents of the US but who happen to live in other states.

Kansas' education system is ruled by educators and is totally screwed.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 1 month ago

I'm a little taken back by how many times this article refers to "engaging the child" in these situations. This article barely even admits that there is a relationship between truancy and parental involvement. I hope this article is simply written with a slant, not that the schools are trying to "fix kids" without "fixing" parents.

Jean 1183 seems to have gone a little far in her approach, but I truly appreciate the heart of her message: she got involved - big time - when her kid missed even a LITTLE school.

notajayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

WHY (Anonymous) says:

"I have a child and I will tell him that high school is the most ridiculous 4 years of life. He should have fun, skip school on sunny days, and not get caught up in the day to day sh*& of teenage life."

Hence the reasons for holding parents accountable for their kids' attendance...

WHY 10 years, 1 month ago

I believe the schools care because they lose funding if attendance is down. beobachter- not BS at all. I don't know if you remember high school but day to day very little goes on in class. Let kids take a day off every now and then. Don't worry if they skip class and spend the afternoon downtown for a day, but do be concerned if your teenager can't read.

Godot 10 years, 1 month ago

Once upon a time, in America, an individual who obtained an education was celebrated by the family who had achieved something great, because everyone knew that only the most dedicated, the most gifted, the most perservering could achieve this goal.

Now, education has devolved to a requirement that, if not achieved, will result in having one's parents scrutinized by the Distrist Attorney's office.

If you do not deposit your children to the required education centers for the required 12 years of indoctrination with no more than 7 hours per year of officially approved absence, you and your children will be considered criminals.

Lawrence, 2008

Sharon Roullins 10 years, 1 month ago

Although it is a sad fact, it is also true...... absent students = loss of funding. To say that the highest absentism occurs in the school districts where the majority of students get free or reduced lunch is a joke. Really, what's the point? So are you trying to convince me that only "poorer" families' kids skip school? Wow, I have a few choice words on that argument but I will be nice and keep them to myself. Instead of generalizing the issue, why don't they find out why the child is absent from school. Yeah, illness is a legitimate excuse, but offering alternative means of transportation, etc, bus pass will help. Will it really? The buses run on a schedule not compatible with school schedules or the routes aren't compatible.

Afroman 10 years, 1 month ago

I am in college, and I was in perfect attendance except for two days througout junior high school until i graduated from High School. My age matters very little. However the fact that just because a child attends the class doesn't mean they're getting anything out of it. Look at it like this, you choose the things you want to learn and those you don't, that's human nature. However, being forced into anything just creates hostility and a rebellious reactions/feelings towards those who are forcing them to do so. Class isn't getting easier; rather harder. History's getting longer and more detail enriched, math techniques are being revised and updated, and there's something new in Chemistry and Physics every day. My parents would've made me go to school, but I liked going there. But it's more than just a academic education. Everyday you discover something in the social world. Wither it was different ways of interacting, or new or surprising things we found out in or on the news, I felt like High school was more of a social learning environment.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 1 month ago

Although it is a sad fact, it is also true:: absent students = loss of funding.

You are confusing Kansas with what are called ADM (average daily membership) states. In Kansas, there is a "count day" in September when the official enrollment is set; this one number determines much of funding for the budget year.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.