Nearly 3,000 St. Louis Public School students - almost one in ten of all students - miss class on an average day. That comes with some huge costs: overworked teachers have to work harder to catch missing students up; remedial and special ed costs rise; classroom discipline suffers; the district loses funding for the missing students; students with flawed educations enter the workplace - and life - at a great disadvantage.
Since 2001, the Courts, the Police Department and the St. Louis Public Schools have been working together in the Truancy Initiative. Students with unexcused absences are referred to the courts for an evaluation. The courts, the school district, and the truant’s family determine why the child is not in school - and develop a plan to address the situation.
It is a good program.
In 2006, an independent evaluation found that children who participated in the Truancy Initiative were in school an average of 24 additional days a year. As a bonus, the district saw nearly $400,000 net revenue.
This collaborative continues to look for - and find - ways to improve its efforts: elementary students belong in the Truancy Initiative program; new laws are needed to hold parents more accountable for their children; more data has to be shared throughout the system.
You can help. If you see a school age child you know some place other than school on a school day, call her parent. If you can’t find a parent, call a cop.