(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright announced the launch of a coordinated, multi-agency effort to reduce truancy among students in the District’s public schools.
“Truancy is almost always symptomatic of deeper issues in the community or at home,” Mayor Gray said. “By identifying the District’s most truant students, we are also identifying the families that are most in need of services, or families that are already receiving services but not receiving them in the most coordinated manner.”
In the District, a truant is defined as a minor between the ages of 5 and 18 who, without a valid reason and with or without parental knowledge or consent, does not attend school. Studies show that chronic truancy is often a precursor to a variety of other problems, including homelessness, criminal activity and dropping out of school.
District officials, in coordination with District and private health and human-services agencies, the DC Public Schools and Public Charter Schools and the court system, will begin a program to identify truant 9th graders at three schools – Ballou and Anacostia Senior High Schools and the Washington Mathematics and Science Technology Public Charter School – where truancy is a particularly significant problem.
There are about 120 chronically truant 9th-grade students at these three schools. Between now and the end of this school year, the program will identify 9th graders at the schools who have accumulated 5-10 days of unexcused absences and help connect them and their families with social services.
“In partnership with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and our health and human-services leaders, we are working to improve inter-agency coordination to address the underlying issues that cause kids to be truant in the first place,” said Deputy Mayor Wright. “Through this effort, we aim to dramatically reduce the number of students that become chronically truant and suffer academically as a result. Our shared commitment to providing a high-quality education in the District of Columbia must start with every child showing up prepared to learn.”
The goal of the initiative is ultimately to ensure that Attendance Intervention Plans are in place for all targeted students with case management and follow-up plans from the designated lead agencies. The program will be expanded next year to other high schools and, ultimately, to middle and elementary schools.