Truancy and Absenteeism
RSU #20 – Belfast, Belmont, Frankfort, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Sprigs, and Swanville
All absences are tracked in IC. We literally write in the box with the date, the excuse the parent gives us, writing verbatim what they say. We can print off and show this to case managers, social workers, parents, etc.
We also send warning letters after 4 or 5 unexcused absences then a more formal letter once they reach 7 unexcused absences. In most cases these warning letters help increase attendance.
With our chronic absent/tardy students, after 10-14 unexcused absences, the superintendent schedules a meeting, not at the parent's convenience. In both recent cases, the parent did not show up for the meeting but the child's attendance improved immediately.
Bonny Eagle High School - Standish
The Dean of Students sends out an automated call and email for every student who misses a class and or day of school. I then meet with students and try to do a face to face or phone call with the parents at 5 days missed. At 10 days I send out the 1st truancy letter (see link) and we meet. During this meeting we set the kid and/or family up with a school social worker and/or guidance counselor. I then monitor and meet with the student regularly and discuss with teachers how we can engage the student. I use my office as a "safe space" for kids when they feel overwhelmed or need to cool off or just talk for a bit, then I walk them back to class. It is the relationship building piece that is the key.
While in Augusta, I went to the home and either helped get them out of the house and/or had a meeting right in the home and then gave them a ride to school. Parents loved this. If the student continues to miss school, then the 2nd letter goes out and we all meet with the Assistant Superintendent. During this meeting we discuss more intense strategies and really press the parents with the law and what could happen i.e. court. If the student misses more school, I then write a report and send it to the DA for a court hearing. I have done this about 30 times in my career. I have a few documents that could help in regards to documenting formats that local law enforcement like. Hope this helps and you can use it.
We have had to get really creative around this issue. I recognize that some of what we do would be difficult to replicate in larger settings - but much of this work is supported by grants that we write.
All truant student situations are really different, but there are some common circumstances, including:
1) Mental illness and/or substance use within the family system;
2) Poverty (and the associated logistical barriers); and
3) Students feel a lack of connection to the school community.
These top 3 underlying circumstances also bring associated barriers of logistics and shame. Click the name of the school to see their plan.
Although this policy is helping to curb some of our issues it is my no means a "silver bullet". The part we struggle with is the committee to create attendance plans - it takes an extraordinary amount of time to set up the meeting and stay on top of the plan with the student and family. Click on MSA #27 to see a copy of their policy.
I use an attendance protocol that I created that lists most of the "steps" the school must go through before calling DHHS and/or the DA. Although it's not complete (it doesn't mention sending a letter to the superintendent), it helps me keep my documentation in order. Click on East Grand School to see a copy of the steps they take.
RSU 14 – Windham Raymond
We (RSU 14) have been working with Susan Lieberman with the "count ME in" initiative. She would be an excellent resource for you!
Count ME In
Director, Count ME In: Attending School, Preparing for Life
WG Mallet Elementary School – Farmington
First I ask teachers to let me know when they see a pattern of absences. I also carry names forward from the previous year, if there were attendance issues and monitor those in Power School. I alert our office secretaries about those students we need to keep an eye on. They maintain a list and let me know of new absences as they occur. My first effort is to call those parents and make contact and offer to assist if we can. I try to provide support and ideas if it's about getting a student out of bed, or if a student is expressing disinterest in school. When absences continue, I let parents know that I need to 'forward this information along to Central office', which sometimes brings about a change.
I have asked our assistant superintendent to write a letter to parents of children who had attained the number of absences that constitute truancy. She later created a form letter housed in Power School, which can be accessed and used by principals as needed. Our last resort is to send our truancy officer (transportation director with a different hat) to the home for a check.
We don't have any earth-shatteringly different ideas, but this sequence has helped.
Click on "Old Town Elementary" to see a copy of their protocol.
Bucksport High School - Bucksport
At Bucksport, we have a form letter that I send out regarding absences and how they jeopardize receiving credit. Our policy is that if a student 8 unexcused absences in a semester course or 16 in a year long course, they will not receive credit for the course. I send the letters out once they have missed 4 and then update it as they get closer to the limit. This will usually get the attention of the parents. If a student hits the mark, they will be notified and then have a right to appeal. The issue we run into is the enabling and getting frequent call-ins from parents who will excuse a lot of absences.
Click on "Sacopee Valley" and see what they use for a Truancy Log.
Windham Primary School - Windham
Windham uses the "Count ME In" free program and has seen a dramatic increase in attendance. Below are some examples of their letters to parents, as well as, their attendance protocol.