Monday, February 27, 2017

Lake Washington "Community Truancy Boards" focus on chronic absenteeism

Cyndi Campbell (RHS,) Sandy Hearn (LWHS,) Marcia Chapman (JHS) Deanna Wells (EHS) 
Truancy is a big problem for all schools across the State so our legislatures passed a law requiring confidential "Truancy Boards" for all high schools by next year.  The Lake Washington School District is ahead of the game; late last year they took applications from the community and formed two boards -- one for Juanita/LW High and one for Redmond High/Eastside.

About twenty community members were selected to participate.  High school attendance coordinators Cyndi, Sandy, Marcia and Deanna trained us. Our job is mostly to 1) be good listeners, 2) help truant students and their parents open up, 3) and help the attendance coordinators customize solutions.  Board sessions are emotional. I learned besides being a good listener, objectivity is key.

The basic criteria for truancy is:  1) after 1 or 2 unexcused absences a conference is set up with the parents. 2) after 5 unexcused absences in a calendar month a "conference contract" is prepared and the attendance coordinators may file a petition with the juvenile court. 3) after 7 unexcused absences in a calendar month or 10 in a year the coordinators file a petition against the parent, the student, or both;  this is when the Board steps in.  

The Board process is straight forward. First we spend 15 minutes listening to the student, then about 20 minutes with the parents;  then the Board meets alone to prepare an "action plan." and finally both student and parents meet together with the Board to review the plan. (e.g. online courses and other educational plans, behavioral health counselling, etc.) A follow-up meeting is scheduled for the next month. The attendance coordinators are highly skilled and pretty much run the show.

  Bob Yoder, truancy board member  

 Seahawk's Jermaine Kearse encourages parents to make sure their students attend so that they 

can succeed in school. For more resources on increasing attendance, visit the OSPI Attendance website


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