When it comes to school attendance, the saying is true: miss a day, miss a lot.
What happens when students miss more than just a day? While sickness and other excused absences are to be expected, what happens when a student has multiple unexcused absences? How many missed days are too many? What are the schools doing to combat truancy and highlight the importance of daily and weekly attendance?
Ohio’s laws regard habitual truancy as any student who has missed more than 30 hours (five days) of unexcused absence, 42 or more hours (seven days) of unexcused absence in one school month, and/or 72 or more hours (12 days) of unexcused absence in one school year.
We spoke with administrators of local schools to hear their plans to keep students on track.
Rebecca Schwann, Communications Specialist
Is truancy a problem in the schools? Anthony Wayne Local Schools typically averages around 92-98% of students being at school on any given day, so thankfully, truancy isn’t usually a huge problem for us.
Has there been an increase/decrease in truancy in recent years? Student attendance fluctuated greatly over the past several years due to illness and other factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number of students identified as habitually truant within our district has remained relatively steady.
What are the policies in place regarding truancy? The Anthony Wayne Local Schools Board of Education’s attendance policy requires enrolled students to attend school in accordance with Ohio’s laws.
What is the district doing to combat truancy? Some individual students struggle with attendance, and those situations are handled individually due to the wide variety of reasons that a student may not be regularly coming to school. As such, Anthony Wayne Local Schools does not have a district or building-wide attendance program or incentives in place to promote regular school attendance.
Our school administrators, counselors, and school social workers address any individual attendance concerns with students and their families should they arise, and work to provide the necessary support and resources to help ensure students are attending school consistently.
Melissa McDonald, Director of Student Support Services
Is truancy a problem in our schools? Poor attendance directly affects academic performance. It is an issue schools are faced with, but when you are able to break down barriers and get to the root cause of the issue, it is easier to provide support to ensure success.
Has there been an increase/decrease in truancy in recent years? The issue of truancy has always existed, but I feel that the way we are addressing it has changed. The days of sending a truancy officer to a house are long gone. The schools are trying to find more proactive ways to improve the attendance of children and assist families.
What policies are in place regarding truancy? Our policies are based around Ohio Revised Code which requires that a parent/guardian receive notification when their child has missed either 38 hours of instruction in one school month or 65 hours of instruction in one school year. When a student reaches one of these levels, a letter is mailed home by the school to notify the parent/guardian.
When a student reaches the level of habitual truant, an Attendance Intervention Plan Meeting is held at the school. The goal of the AIP is to identify barriers and resolve attendance issues through interventions. The AIP is then monitored by the building.
If attendance does not improve, the family is referred to Student Support Services to meet with the Attendance Hearing Officer. At this point we are looking to add more interventions and use legal action as a last resort.
What is the district doing to combat truancy? Attendance improves when schools engage families in a positive way. Our district has added a district social worker and a psychiatric nurse this school year to assist with some of the social-emotional needs of families. The social worker has been a huge asset in connecting families to community resources.
We also follow our building Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) expectations and look at restorative practices to solve the problem versus punitive consequences to address the issue.
Christina Harper, Licensed Social Worker
Is truancy a problem in our schools? Truancy will always be an issue. However, districts have been diligent in building programming in order to either prevent it, or provide support to the family.
Considering we are just coming off a global pandemic, and the impact that had on our students and families, we have had an opportunity to increase the support and interventions to address this issue.
Has there been an increase/decrease in truancy in recent years? That is hard to answer because the last few years have been so impacted by the pandemic. I can say, however, that it seems to be improving a little bit each year the farther we get from 2020.
What are the policies in place regarding truancy? The Ohio Department of Education has established guidelines that each school district must follow. This includes letters to families and team meetings when necessary to discuss specific interventions that will help in each case.
What is the district doing to combat truancy? In addition to the already established programs in our district, we have implemented a full school social work department that makes home visits as well as a student and family engagement liaison who meets with students and helps to keep them and their families engaged. Our local county agencies have also made changes to their programming as we are all collaborating to support our families and eliminate barriers to accessing education.
Our district has started using a program called SafeArrival which calls parents/guardians when the student(s) are not present at school.
Is truancy a problem in the schools? Toledo Public Schools saw an increase in truancy in recent years, most likely linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the district doing to combat truancy? Toledo Public Schools began implementing the Get Connected Truancy Prevention Program in an effort to curb excessive absences. Each school was assigned an Attendance Champion to work with the truancy intervention team of students, parents and staff. The Attendance Champion checks on students and helps them and their families get connected to community resources. The Truancy Intervention Team develops an individualized plan for each student.
Kim Eltschlager, Attendance Specialist
Is truancy a problem in the schools? Truancy has definitely increased, and since the pandemic it has skyrocketed.
What are the policies in place regarding truancy? Washington Local Schools employs a three-tier approach. In the first tier, we employ teachers and staff as well as the student. It starts in the classroom. Do kids feel safe and secure? Is the classroom warm and welcoming? In the second tier, we send a 5, 10, and 15-day attendance letter to the parents, notifying them if there is a problem. In the third tier, the district and the attendance specialist get involved to set up a meeting with the parents and get a plan in place.
What is the district doing to combat truancy? This spring, Washington Local Schools will be partnering with attendanceworks.org to conduct an attendance audit and diagnosis. Our goal for next year is to get the community involved as well.