Annenberg Article 2-2-12


New Report Aims to Address Truancy in LA Schools


by Karla Robinson
Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Los Angeles County Student Attendance Task Force (SATF) released findings today regarding the latest truancy rates and proposed solutions to tackle the issue, which has dramatically deteriorated in recent years.

For the 2009-2010 school year, several school districts in LA county saw truancy rates above 50 percent and nearly three out of 10 public school students were truants under California law.

Each SATF member adopted the report's recommendations and the Education Coordinating Council will vote on their implementation. The proposed solutions – including improved data collection and sharing between agencies – would create a more systematic approach to addressing attendance issues, something LA County has never had.

Chief Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash, who chairs the task force, requested the report to be made not only to aid schools but also to address juvenile delinquency. 

According to a post by Southern California Public Radio (SCPR), the juvenile courts see 150,000 young people each, most of school age and many with school-related issues such as attendance.

The report's findings show the immediate need to apply research-based alternatives to improve attendance rather than the ineffective criminalization of truancy. 

"Too often, law enforcement has been called upon to impose criminal punishments on children and families, even though research shows that such methods have little impact, and in fact, actually increase the likelihood of school push-out and drop-out," the report states.

 

Truant students were previously subject to a $250 fine but under a new directive issued by Nash, students will be able to do community service instead or even be absolved if they can prove they were running late or on their way to school when cited.

Although it is still undetermined whether the policies will be enacted by the Education Coordinating Council, the SATF plans to develop a technical manual to guide schools' implementation in addition to working to provide free bus passes for school-aged people, SCPR reported.

"I don't have any expectations that we'll plop down this report and everyone will say, 'yay, hooray, let's do it all,'" Nash told SCPR. "You hope some of this will resonate with school districts and they'll think we could do this, we could do that, and they'll do what they can."