Communities can help stop truancy

Tobie Blanchard, Sasser, Diane  |  11/6/2009 10:34:16 PM

News Release Distributed 11/06/09

Truancy problems go beyond the school grounds, and an LSU AgCenter family life specialist says it is a problem for the community.

“Research has shown a link between truancy and later violent offenses,” said Dr. Diane Sasser.

In Louisiana, students are considered truant when they have five unexcused absences from school for one semester or 10 for the school year.

This year, Louisiana enacted tougher truancy laws. Parents of habitually truant or tardy children could be required by courts to complete school and community service, attend parenting classes and have state-issued recreational licenses suspended.

“This could coerce parents into taking an active role in their children’s education,” Sasser explained.

Studies have found that family, school and economic factors are associated with higher rates of truancy.

“Family factors that increase the risk of truancy include lack of supervision, physical and psychological abuse and failure of the family to encourage or value education,” the specialist said.

U.S. school districts with the highest truancy rates also have the lowest academic achievement rates, and truancy is a warning that a child may drop out, she added.

Sasser said failure in school not only affects the individual but also affects society.

“Dropouts cannot attend college, are more likely to have low-paying jobs and feel a lack of concern for the community, state and country,” she said.

Parents, school and communities can help reduce truancy.

“It’s takes a village, and a lot of hard work,” Sasser said.

The LSU AgCenter specialist said parents can help by:

– Indicating to their children the importance in getting a good education, which will in turn lead to better jobs and better circumstances.

– Meeting with school administration and faculty to discuss how to help their children, getting past the “I hated school as a kid” fears and into the “I want what is best for my child even if it means walking into the school I dreaded” proactive approach.

– Seeing the school as a partner in their children’s education.

– Setting aside supervised homework time in a quiet area.

– Keeping children accountable for their work

Schools can help by:

– Making classwork and homework more palatable, more localized, more individualized and developmentally appropriate.

– Teaching for the joy of learning rather than to the test.

– Creating a nurturing environment for students and faculty.

– Making students feel welcome and valued.

– Encouraging partnerships among parents, children and schools, more than just parent-teacher conferences and PTO meetings.

– Stepping away from the “I’m the teacher and I know what is right” paradigm and into the “I know the subject matter, but you’re the expert on your child. Let’s work together” process.

– Praising children for hard work

Communities can help by:

– Supporting schools and students through volunteerism and afterschool programs.

– Employers and employees can encourage workers and co-workers in how important their children’s education can be for everyone’s future.

– Individuals can offer tutoring.

“Helping our youth helps us all,” Sasser said.

Tobie Blanchard

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