Truancy Intervention Program in HCS Provides Support to Families
The first step of any student’s learning process begins in the classroom. If a student does not attend class, the student will not be able to reach his or her full academic potential.
While the correlation between school attendance and academic success is self-explanatory, truancy is a nationwide problem that has only been exacerbated and complicated by the effects of COVID-19.
It is important to note that school truancy can be a complicated matter with many different causes, and partnerships between school districts and communities are vital to helping support the families of students who struggle to attend school on a consistent basis.
Led by Corey Currie, director of equity, learning loss, and stakeholder engagement, Haywood County School District has put in place a truancy intervention program to help students and their families remain engaged in the learning process by consistently attending school.
“Because of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, we’re able to have a social worker on each campus and those social workers can partner with outside sources to help best support our students – including students and families who are having issues with truancy,” Currie said.
Habitual truancy can have legal consequences, however, the goal of HCS is to provide a support system for families and partner with those families in order to help children stay in school. That system is put into action once a student has accrued three unexcused absences.
“When a student misses their third day of school, the campus social worker reaches out to the family to check on them. The School Attendance Review Team (SART) will also monitor the student’s attendance,” Currie explained.
Because truancy can be a difficult habit to change, there are integral steps of support that are placed within the system to consistently stay connected to those families who need the support.
“The third unexcused absence starts the process with a letter to the family and a phone call. On the fifth absence, there is another letter sent home with a request for an in-person meeting. The parents/guardians have to meet with the attendance review team at that point. During that meeting, there is an assessment involved that is designed to identify the reasons the student is missing school and to recognize what type of support needs to be given. This is not in any way punitive. This is to show the parents that we’re here to support them however we can in order for their students to reach their fullest potential. We also have the ability to refer the family to DCS to partner with the family if needed,” Currie said.
If a student continues to miss school and reaches eight and/or ten unexcused absences, the family is referred to Jay Boyd who is the Family Engagement Coordinator for the district.
“Jay will meet with the family and explain to them the legal and academic ramifications of habitual truancy if the student continues to miss school,” Currie explained.
Jay will also review the assessment and discuss with the family whether or not there are any new barriers to school attendance and offer other options of support from the district level.
Once the district truancy board receives the case, the board has the option to refer the family to juvenile court, but that is a last resort.
“We want the families to know that we’re a partner with them in order to help their students reach their potential. We don’t want this to be punitive at all; we want to provide support and options, but after ten unexcused absences it’s out of our hands and into the hands of the court,” Currie said. “That’s really the last thing we want to happen.”
The truancy intervention program is a positive way that schools can partner with families to ensure students are being served in ways that allow them to reach their fullest potential.