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Combating Truancy

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  1. Combating Truancy Knox County Truancy Initiative and the Knoxville Police Department Tammie D Gentry

  2. Safe Policy Board • Create policy to help and protect children • Develop intervention and prevention programs to reach out to children at early ages • Create partnerships with government and local social service agencies • Create Truancy Initiative and other programs for youth and families

  3. Problems For Knoxville • 56,000 Students in Knox County School System • 5,000 are truant everyday • Daytime juvenile crime increases: vandalism, burglary, and auto theft • Truants have a high rate of committing crime or becoming victim of crime • Increase in juvenile gang and drug involvement

  4. Truancy • Truancy is any day missed from school without permission or documentation. • Documentation is to verify that it was a legitimate absence. Without it, the day becomes an unexcused absence. • Knox Co. allows 5 days for documents to be brought in.

  5. Truancy is a Gateway Crime • Usually a predictor of more delinquent behavior (OJJDP, 2) • Preventing truancy should be a two phase operation. On one hand, the initiative should protect children to prevent victimization. On the other hand, the initiative should prevent children from committing crimes when they should be in school.

  6. Criminal Evolution $$$$ $$$$$ Violent Serious Youthful Offender Chronic Career Criminal High Risk At Risk J. J. S. C. J. S. 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 <10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


  8. Issues Correlating to Truancy • Family Factors: These include lack of guidance or parental supervision, domestic violence, poverty, drug or alcohol abuse in the home, lack of awareness or attendance laws, and differing attitudes toward education.(OJJDP,2)

  9. Correlations Cont’d • School Factors: • school size • attitudes of teachers • inflexibility in meeting the diverse cultural and learning styles of the students • Inconsistent procedures in dealing with truants (OJJDP, 2)

  10. Correlations Cont’d • Economic Influences: employed students, single-parent homes, high mobility rates, parents who hold multiple jobs, and a lack of affordable transportation and childcare.(OJJDP, 2) • Student Variables: drug and alcohol abuse, lack of understanding of attendance laws, lack of social competence, mental health difficulties, and poor physical health. (OJJDP, 2)

  11. Economic Impact • Less Educated Workforce • Business Loss because of youths hanging out on store front or shoplifting • Higher daytime crime • Cost of social services for families • Can cost community $2.2 million to care for one high school drop out who becomes involved in crime and drug abuse(OJJDP, 3 and Morgan, iii)

  12. Role Play • School • Juvenile Court • Truancy Center • School Court Liaison • The District Attorney’s Office • Knoxville Police Department • Community Agencies

  13. The School’s Role • Accurate Attendance Records • Informing Truancy Center and Social Worker of chronic truants • Exhausts all resources and documents such work

  14. Juvenile Court’s Role • Make referrals through court system • Final destination of the truancy process when all community resources have been exhausted • Judge court orders use of resources, place in detention, or place on probation or in state custody

  15. Truancy Center’s Role • Prevention and intervention services • Contact parent, school, social worker, probation officer or social service agency, when students brought in • Monitor student’s attendance and do follow-up for next three months • Do assessments and counseling of student and family to determine cause of truancy • Make necessary referrals based on assessments • Build a case by documentation and referral of services to help school personnel and District Attorney in case student goes to court

  16. School Court Liaison’s Role • Pre-court hearings and referral of services • Pull attendance records and verify data • Presents the District Attorney with students to be considered for prosecution

  17. The District Attorney’s Role • Prosecute families guilty of truancy • Offer more services before punitive consequences • Conduct the Parental Responsibility Meeting and the Truancy Review Board.

  18. Law Enforcement’s Role • Trained in truancy initiative • Making it part of the standard operating procedures • Pick up students while on patrol or when dispatched to home when student is refusing to attend school and transport to truancy center

  19. Parental Responsibility Meeting • Conducted by District Attorney • Invites families of 10 or more unexcused absences • Partner social service agencies set up booths to offer services to families • Parents given opportunities to speak with school social workers and ask for help or explain absences

  20. Truancy Review Board • Conducted by District Attorney’s Office • Members include law enforcement, social service agencies, and experts in medical and mental illness fields • Meets with chronic truant families • Search for scope of causes of truancy • Offer services and counseling • Last step before filing charges against parent/child

  21. Community Agencies • Provide assistance where court and law enforcement are limited • Provide Mentoring • Provide Counseling • Provide Family Assistance • Provide Financial Assistance • Play role in court proceedings

  22. Agency Partnerships • DCS- Department of Children Services • DA- District Attorney • Juvenile Court • Boys and Girls Club of East Tennessee • Knox County School System • KCDC-Local Housing Projects • Compassion Coalition • Child and Family Tennessee

  23. Building Necessary Partnerships • It is absolutely necessary that partnerships are formed to make the truancy initiative successful. • Possible Partners Department of Children’s Services Juvenile Court School System (Knox Co. Schools) District Attorney Office Boys and Girls Club Law Enforcement (Knox. Police Dept.) Local Housing Project Association (KCDC) Local Youth Organizations Local Social Service Agencies

  24. What Partnerships Provide • Provide a steady contact for referral and services • Provides ongoing information regarding the student • Provides quick access to those working with student (i.e. probation officers, case managers) • All partners meet and staff on students monthly to assess the student further • Makes everyone aware of the situation

  25. Results of Initiative • 30% decrease in daytime juvenile crime • Attendance rate for Knoxville is at 96% :above the state average of 93% • Helping schools not fail under No Child Left Behind Law for attendance reasons • Locates families who are in need of services that otherwise may not get help • Locates neglected children

  26. References • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, September 2001. • Morgan, John G., Comptroller of the Treasury. Office of EducationalAccountability for the State of Tennessee, January 2004.