Commentary: Getting Parents to Stop Truancy

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 22, 2008

It was one of those freezing cold nights. A single mom with four children and no car wheeled her kid’s bike into the auditorium at Will C. Wood Middle School in South Sacramento.

District Attorney Jan Scully had sent this mom and 45 other parents warning letters, informing them that their kids were chronic truants: that they’d racked up more than six unexcused absences since the beginning of the school year. Truancy is a predictor of school failure, gang involvement, and crime.

The school and the DA are trying to get kids’ and their parents’ attention. By high school it’s too late. But middle school parents still have influence.

A deputy district attorney delivered a pointed warning at the meeting. Parents who fail to get their kids to school can be prosecuted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. But the parents heard more than threats. They were offered help too – everything from housing to food assistance, tutoring to child care help – whatever it takes to help them help their kids get back to school.

It seems to be working. 79% of students whose parents attended the truancy assembly last year improved their attendance significantly. When kids are in school – everyone benefits.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.