Truancy: Defining matters

I can truly remember times when I wanted to skip school and my parents did not support it. They valued education – of course they never said it so succinctly. As I grew up and found a liking for school through involvement in many school activities and support from teachers, friends, and schoolmates, I began to value school too. The strange thing is that I wonder when persons don’t have that support and never feel connected to school, what keeps them coming back each morning. The answer has never been clear but I wonder. My research in truancy and social bonding in the school context continues to unveil a lot of information as to who is responsible for establishing this connection. The response form the research is that parents have outsourced and feel that the responsibility lies with the school primarily; the school on the other hand believes it lies with the parents. Regardless of the answer, today we have millions of children throughout the US absent from formal school systems everyday. Thus, building the connection and relevance to school is a must. Schools have accepted this responsibility but believe that their primary role is to educate not socialize. Hence the quandary; when parents believe they have outsourced the care and education of their children to the schools, who socializes the child? Granted there are many types of truant students as Reid (2000) reminds us. They range from lesson absent truants to parentally condoned absent truants. The question that remains is “Are the practices and policies we have in place for truants responding to the real types and categories of truants that exist?” OR “Are we simply preaching to the choir of students that love school and want to attend but must help parents or simply can’t get up in time for school and miss the bus?” If we don’t take the time to categorize students by type of truancy the little money we have invested in this population may be used on incentives and strategies that don’t yield the most desired outcomes. Please don’t get me wrong that I think we are doing sufficient already; to the contrary, I believe that as a society we have lost sight of the children at the center of the discussion on truancy. We have focused too much on the parent and the parents are too caught up in blaming the school for not doing enough. As such the change, from my perspective is simply 1) set a common definition of truancy, 2) begin to organize the data we have on truancy by categories and types of truants, 3) then use the newly generated data to target specific challenges experienced by different types of truants keeping both parents, schools and students accountable for the changed behavior. Let me hear your thoughts on truancy and what we should do.

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