Henrico students are skipping class less often, in part because of a new effort to crack down on truancy.
The Henrico County School Board is discussing new truancy figures Thursday. School leaders say they show a new approach to cracking down on students who skip school may be doing the trick.
The warning came early. At the beginning of the school year school leaders sent a leader home to parents saying after seven unexcused absences, the school can pursue legal action. Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor says her office is working with other groups to do all they can to prevent that.
The sad reality is when it comes to the classroom or the streets, many students often choose the latter.
"For those who do not finish school, there is a higher likelihood they will engage in delinquent behavior which has a direct co-relation to public safety," Taylor said.
It's a fact she addressed from day one, taking an active role in cracking down on truants, primarily through early intervention.
"Is it an issue that's happening in the home? Is it an absentee parent? Is there perhaps some substance abuse or some type of abuse going on in the home that the child has not spoken on?" Taylor suggested.
That approach seems to be bringing results.
The first semester of this school year compared to the first semester of the last school year shows a 32% reduction in truancy.
That's good news considering last school year alone showed an increase of nearly 100 elementary students and more than 60 middle school students who consistently skipped school.
"It concerned my colleagues. It concerned the Superintendent," said school board member Lamont Bagby.
So they're working with the court system, mental health experts, and social workers to remedy the problem.
"Talk to the family. The Commonwealth Attorney actually sitting down with those families saying, ‘this is where you're headed and you don't want to go there'," Bagby pointed to an effort he considers successful.
"If that means there are more children staying in school, that means there's more children hopefully going to graduate and that means great things for the county of Henrico," Taylor added.
She says her office is going into all Henrico middle schools by the end of the school year to promote anti-bullying, since that's one of the many factors that often contributes to truancy
In Henrico, after seven unexcused absences a social worker can file a petition against a middle or high school student through juvenile court. If the student is in elementary school, a warrant is filed against the parents through the magistrate's office.
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