Truancy court pilot program to be tested locally
January 25, 2011
Joplin R-8 schools and The Jasper County Truancy Court will begin a pilot program for a weekly truancy court by the end of January 2011.

“The partnership began in an effort to improve our overall district attendance,” said Denise Legore, West Central Elementary School principal. “We make referrals to the Jasper County Juvenile Office for students who illustrate a pattern of tardies and absences. The court will be used to provide additional services for families who continue to struggle.”

This will be the first time a truancy court will be offered in Jasper County. Hearings will take place at West Central Elementary School. Goals will be set with rewards for families and students. Grade and behavior checks will also take place so officials can provide support and help to families rather than pass down judgments and punishments.

“This partnership shows a proactive and collaborative approach to solving a problem and intervening with families,” said Dr. C.J. Huff, superintendent of Joplin Schools.

Every parent, guardian, or other responsible persons in this state who have charge, custody, or control of a child between the ages of 7 and 17 years are responsible for enrolling the child in a school/ program of academic instruction and ensuring the child attends regularly. If the child does not attend regularly, the parent, guardian, or other responsible persons will be in violation of the provisions of section 167.061 of the MO Revised Statues. A parent, guardian, or responsible person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a class C misdemeanor.

An evaluation of a truancy court intervention in four middle schools in Springfield from 2004-08 published in Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 47, Issue 2, pp. 173-183 (Wiley Periodicals, 2009) concluded that truancy courts...may have an impact on truancy for severely truant students, but may have a limited effect on students with mild or moderate truancy. However, according to an unsubstantiated report found in an article on Nashua Telegraph.com, a three-year study by the University of Missouri found that a majority of the truancy court students [in St. Louis County] improved their attendance rates by an average of 44 percent. [We could not find an original posting of the report.]

Certain factors have been found associated with the likelihood of truancy. They are family factors such as lack of supervision, physical and psychological abuse and failure to encourage educational achievement. School factors can range from inconsistent enforcement of rules to student boredom with the curriculum. Economic factors play a role when there is high family mobility or parents with multiple jobs. Students who are truants tend to abuse drugs and alcohol and feign ignorance of school rules.

In a December 2010 dropout report summary posted on the Missouri Dept. of Elementary & Secondary Education and mandated monthly by them Joplin R-VIII reported 10 dropouts as compared to Springfield R-XII's 29. Since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was signed into law mandating truancy reporting, dropout rates have been seen to be increasing nationally. Ironically, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of all teachers quit during their first five years.

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