Minnesota Title V MCH Needs Assessment Fact Sheets

Children with Special Health Needs

Truancy

Summer 2004

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Size of the Problem

In 2001, The Minnesota Student Survey was administered to 6 th, 9 th and 12 th grade students in Minnesota schools. Two questions on the survey dealt with the issue of truancy.

One question asked specifically about truancy in the last 30 days. 31% of students with special health needs had skipped. They were more than twice as likely to be chronically truant (skipping school more than 10 times in a month) than their healthy peers.

Minnesota Student Survey 2001 Truancy in the last 30 days

Health Status

Never

Once or twice

3 to 5 times

6 to 10 times

more than 10 times

Special Health Needs

68.52

19.61

6.52

2.15

3.20

No Special Health Needs

75.02

17.28

5.07

1.49

1.13

The second question regarding truancy asked if the student ever skipped school because they felt unsafe. 12.25% of students with special health needs have skipped school because they felt unsafe. This was more than twice the percentage compared with their healthy peers.

Health Status

Skipped because unsafe

Special Health Needs

12.25

No Special Health Needs

5.51

Seriousness

Truancy has become a national problem.[1] It has been labeled one of the top ten major problems in this country's schools, negatively affecting the future of our youth.[2]

It is generally believed that students from lower income families have higher rates of truancy.[3] Immigrant students in Minnesota reported staying home because they fear students at their schools.[4] The number of truancy cases is evenly divided between boys and girls, and the peak age for petitioned truancy cases is fifteen.[5]

Truancy is often an indicator for more serious underlying problems such as alcohol or chemical use, family problems, physical or mental health issues, peer pressure, gang involvement, or child neglect.[6]

Warning signs are often evident in the elementary school years .[7] Left unchecked, truancy can have strong negative effects on students' lives by blocking future opportunities.[8] Children who do not attend school do not learn the lessons that allow them to become productive adults.[9] Absenteeism is detrimental to students' achievement, promotion, graduation, self-esteem, and employment potential. Clearly, students who miss school fall behind their peers in the classroom. This, in turn, leads to low self-esteem and increases the likelihood that students at-risk will drop out of school.[10] Dropping out is easier than catching up.[11]

Children are not the only losers when they don't attend school or when they miss hours of school each day. Society loses as well.[12] Truancy is costly. It costs students an education, resulting in reduced earning capacity. It costs school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in Federal and State funds that are based on daily attendance figures. It costs businesses, which must pay to train uneducated workers. It costs taxpayers, who must pay higher taxes for law enforcement and welfare costs for dropouts who end up on welfare rolls or underemployed.[13] Truancy is widely regarded as a gateway to crime, because missing school is a key risk factor for future delinquency and criminal behavior .[14]

As earlier noted, the 2001 Minnesota Student Survey found that students with special health needs were more likely than their healthy peers to have skipped school.

Interventions

Because truancy is a societal problem, most truancy reduction programs are community-based.[15] One of the key features of truancy intervention is a collaborative, or multimodal, approach that involves some combination of community stakeholders: parents, schools, community and youth organizations, social services agencies, businesses, juvenile courts, and law enforcement agencies. This approach takes into account the many risk factors that underlie truancy.[16]

Early prevention programs that focus on elementary school children view parents as responsible for their children's failure to attend school.[17] Early interventions at elementary schools have been studied. Promise has been found in intervention specialists, home school coordinators, individual success plans, one-on-one attention, mentors, skill-building, counseling, contracts, incentive plans, and a team approach to address student and family needs.[18]

The following approaches have solid research evidence for their effectiveness: Relationship-building Students need individualized attention at school (this may explain why smaller school has less absenteeism) and to build strong, positive relationships with teachers and other adults, based on mutual trust and respect; Contacting parents regarding absenteeism Includes parents in truancy prevention efforts and works best with 10 th grade and younger; Strong and clear attendance policies; Family counseling A study finding impact included up to six months of family counseling); Intensive school interventions - including individualized plans, a team approach, and "learning circles"; Establishing ongoing truancy prevention programs for school, rather than a one time effort or an effort that only targets high risk students; School staff that is trained, committed, and supported to provide high quality, responsive services and keep at-risk youth in the educational mainstream.[19]

Urban schools, which have higher numbers of low income and minority students, should develop truancy programs that address the social and cultural needs of these populations and maintain their efforts in a collaborative and multi-agency setting.[20]

Some truants continue to have problems with attendance despite intervention efforts. The use of an alternative school that includes individualized instruction, conflict management, problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork skills and being designed specifically for truants may be a successful.[21]

Status

According to Minnesota State Statute 260A, programs must be designed to provide a continuum of intervention and services to support families and children in school while identifying truancy and educational neglect. Statute 260A.07 .07 states county attorneys may establish a truancy mediation program for the purpose of resolving truancy problems without court action.

Several truancy programs in Minnesota have an early intervention focus - providing service to both students and parents as soon as the child starts missing schools (three unexcused absences). This aids in avoiding the child becoming a habitual truant. Two examples include the Inver Grove Heights Middle School Accelerated Court Truancy Program ("ACT"), and the Sherburne County Truancy Intervention Project.

Numerous Minnesota counties have established programs providing a continuum of services in stages, beginning with strong service-oriented efforts at the school and community level and involving the court's authority only when necessary. Examples of counties include, but are not limited to, Washington, Ramsey, Hennepin, Freeborn, Dakota, and Sherburne County. Programs often have a component for promoting the awareness of truancy in the county.

Some cities have truancy ordinances. In Minneapolis, a truant child (under age 18 yrs) is the adults' (parents') responsibility, and parents can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.[22]


1. Hopkins, Gary. Programs combat a community problem-chronically truant students. Education World; March 1998, p.5.
2. DeKalb, J. Student Truancy. ERIC Digest, Number 125;April 1999; p.1.
3. ii Wells, C. New Approaches to Truancy Prevention in Urban Schools. ERIC Digest; No. 186: Sept.. 2003, p.1
4. Garry, E. Truancy: First Step to a Lifetime of Problems; p.2. www.ncjrs.org. [Attn: Non-MDH Link] (Website accessed 6-14-04).
5. Wells, C. New Approaches to Truancy Prevention in Urban Schools. ERIC Digest; No. 186: Sept.. 2003, p.1
6. Website accessed 6-21-04: http://www.co.dakota.mn.us/attorney/brochures/pdf/ACT%20Truancy.pdf. [Attn: Non-MDH Link]
7. Wells, C. New Approaches to Truancy Prevention in Urban Schools. ERIC Digest; No. 186: Sept.. 2003, p.1.
8. Truancy: A Family Guide to Understanding and Seeking Help for Truancy [January 2000]. PACER Center, 8161 Normandale Blvd., Minneapolis, Mn 55437-1044.
9. Website accessed 6-14-04: www.coj.net/Departments/State+Attorneys+Office+/Jacksonville [Attn: Non-MDH Link], p.1
10. DeKalb, J. Student Truancy. ERIC Digest, Number 125;April 1999; p.1.
11. Garry, E. Truancy: First Step to a Lifetime of Problems; p.1. www.ncjrs.org. [Attn: Non-MDH Link] (Website accessed 6-14-04.)
12. Hopkins, Gary. Programs combat a community problem-chronically truant students. Education World; March 1998, p.5.
13. Garry, E. Truancy: First Step to a Lifetime of Problems; p.2. www.ncjrs.org. [Attn: Non-MDH Link] Website accessed 6-14-04
14. Truancy Intervention. www.hennepinattorney.org. [Attn: Non-MDH Link] (Website accessed 6-21-04.)
15. Hopkins, Gary. Programs combat a community problems-chronically truant students. Education World; March 1998, p.6.
16. Wells, C. New Approaches to Truancy Prevention in Urban Schools. ERIC Digest; No. 186: Sept.. 2003, p.1
17. Ibid
18. Decker Gerrard, M; Burhans, A.; Fair, J. Effective truancy prevention and interventions. Wilder Research Center, 1295 Bandana Boulevard North, Suite 210, St. Paul; August 2003; p.8.
19. Ibid. p. 2
20. Wells, C. New Approaches to Truancy Prevention in Urban Schools. ERIC Digest; No. 186: Sept.. 2003, p.2]
21. Ibid
22. Municipal Codes-Truancy. http://www.iir.com/nygc/Municipal%20Codes/municipal%20codes--truancy.htm. [Attn: Non-MDH Link] (Website accessed 6-21-04.)