“No child falls through the cracks. They are dropped through or shoved through by lazy, emotionally immature adults and unethical professionals”
But you may ask what this statement has to do with the issue of truancy? Simple, truant children – who are routinely late or absent – come from dysfunctional homes. Those homes in my experience are led by caregivers who are more concerned about their own pleasures and convenience than the welfare of their children. Some may say that this is an unkind assessment. My response to them is simple, visit these homes and you will see that this is not an aberration.
While some caregivers have a difficult time because of poverty, work schedules or transitioning to a single parent household; the majority simply refuse to exercise self control or basic order in their homes.
And this assessment is supported by various national studies. Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education have found that child neglect and family disorganization are major factors in truancy. The OJJDP also found that “Truancy has been clearly identified as one of the early warning signs of students headed for potential delinquent activity, social isolation, or educational failure via suspension, expulsion, or dropping out.”
More disturbing is a document that I have used for many years in criminal profiling, the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol (J-SOAP-II). In this well respected assessment tool, caregiver issues and truancy become connected as impetuses for teen sex offender development:
- Inconstant and in-stable caregivers before the age of 10.
- Multiple changes in caregivers and living situations.
- Chronic truancy, fighting with peers or teachers.
Dr Gerald Patterson sums up the issue this way, “Parenting plays a critical role in the development process of children. Early discipline failures are a primary casual factor in the development of conduct problems. Harsh discipline, low supervision, lack of parental involvement all add to the development of aggressive children”
Bullying, sexual harassment, negative behavior cliques and aggression towards staff are all done by children who come from dysfunctional homes. But beyond the home environment, schools have a big stake in controlling truancy. Not only is it a major part of NCLB compliance but it affects all school safety issues. The USDOE has tracked the following school issues that directly contribute to truancy.
- Lack of effective and consistently applied attendance policies.
- Poor record-keeping, making truancy difficult to spot.
- Teacher characteristics, such as lack of respect for students and neglect of diverse student needs.
- Unsafe environment, for example a school with ineffective discipline policies where bullying is tolerated. [5 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 skipped school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.]