Creating an anti-truancy environment in schools

Students may start skipping school if they don't feel safe, secure or supported
By: | Issue: February, 2015
January 19, 2015

A Missouri district is actively looking for warning signs of truancy.

Teachers and other educators in Liberty Public Schools are asked to take quick action if, for instance, a student has stopped participating or has become withdrawn in class, says Jim Hammen, director of student services for the 12,000-student district north of Kansas City.

That action includes having the teacher, an administrator, school employee or volunteer begin working one-on-one with students to discuss problems. By developing a close relationship, adults will better understand the problems students have.

“That, to me, has been a connecting point that has made a difference for our students,” Hammen says. “We try to be preventive or proactive before it gets to be time missed from class.”

If students start missing school, adults can continue to assist. For instance, when students have been absent or have been unable to study because of jobs, the adults have worked with employers to adjust work schedules.

Sean Slade, ASCD’s director of whole child programs, says students may start skipping school if they don’t feel safe or secure, or if they believe that no one in the building cares about them. “

It’s making sure that the adults in the schools are playing a role in knowing who the student isÑknowing the student as a person as opposed to just someone who’s there to learn,” Slade says.

In a 2009 study detailed by Slade in the Handbook for Positive Psychology in Schools, students said they knew teachers cared about them when teachers asked questions about their personal lives.

The students also reported that these conversations were much more meaningful if they took place outside the classroom. Those discussions felt more genuine because they didn’t seem to be part of a teacher’s job, Slade says.

“For the last 10 or so years, teachers have been told all that’s important is test scores in language arts and mathÑall that’s important is the ability to convey content knowledge,” Slade says. “What we’re finding is something teachers have known for a long timeÑknowing your students, making sure they feel valued and wanted. Those things matter.”