Playing hookey, skipping, cutting, ditching are some of the common slang names for truancy. But, what is truancy? Slang names make truancy seem inoffensive and commonplace. While truancy may be a fairly frequent incident in the United States, inoffensive it is not. The societal and economic costs of truancy are high even though some changes in policy have already been made regarding responses to cases of truancy. Below, basic information and implications of truancy are outlined.
What is truancy? A definition in the making
According to the report recently published by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a national definition of truancy is still in the makings. Definitions of truancy may have validity in an area as small as a school district in some cases, but are usually determined by each state. Generally truancy is an unexcused absence from school under conditions in which the child would be required to attend school. Truancy is a status offense meaning that the offense would not be considered unlawful for an adult, but is considered unlawful for minors. The offense used to be processed through the costly juvenile justice system until new laws were made in the 60s and 70s. Now there are a variety of tactics used when dealing with truant students including parenting programs, counseling, mentoring programs, involvement of NGOs, etc.
What are the consequences?
Truancy is linked to poor student performance and high school dropout rates. A few days of truancy may quickly convert into chronic truancy and then dropping out. Other effects of truancy may include delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. For those who drop out, the prospects are grim, as dropping out may lead down a path to unemployment at best or prison at the worst.
Students who are chronically truant often take up more class time and attention from teachers, meaning that the regular students receive less instruction and care. Another scarier pattern is that chronically truant students are actually encouraged to drop out as they tend to score lower on standardized tests. These sorts of patterns indicate that truancy is a serious problem with consequences for the truant students and society as a whole.
There is a lot of work to be done by all members of society. The CAP report is fairly upbeat and hopeful, calling for more support and early intervention for truant students. It also recommends a national action plan and consolidation of definitions to improve research and statistics.
Education on the topic is also important. Popular culture and traditional events such as “Senior Skip Day” make truancy seem fun and even acceptable, like it’s no big deal. The question “What is truancy?” should be addressed at schools with a goal that both parents and students are aware of the outcomes of this negative behavior. Supports and investments need to be made so that truancy rates are lessened, and student success increases. It’s important for all of us.
Ahmad, Fara Z. and Tiffany Miller. The High Cost of Truancy. Center for American Progress. Aug 2015.
Truancy Definition, Facts and Laws. http://www.truancyprevention.org/