Almost 60% attendance improvement for K-8 chronically truant students | TheUnion.com

Almost 60% attendance improvement for K-8 chronically truant students

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Frequently when students miss school, their lives become more difficult. When they do return to school, embracing the institution can be a struggle.

Those who miss school have “the feeling of rejection or the feeling of not fitting in,” said Heino Nicolai, a member of the Nevada County Board of Education, at a Jan. 15 board meeting.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay agreed.

If you’re missing school early on, “by the time you get to second grade, that love of school is going to dissipate quickly,” he said.

That’s why school administrators and others are pleased when they’re able to reverse the trend.

In the 2018-19 school year, the Nevada County School Attendance Review Boards were able to improve school attendance for almost 60% of chronically truant Nevada County K-8 students. That’s about 32 out of 54 students whose attendance rates improved.

“I was pleased,” said Lay, acknowledging that the board was still not able to improve attendance for many students.

During the 2018-19 school year, 54 students were referred to the school review board, said Lay, out of a total of 11,000 county students. There were 20 high school students who were also referred to the School Attendance Review Boards, but Lay said the county didn’t have information as to what happened with their attendance rates.

Initiated by the state in the mid 1970s, the county School Attendance Review Boards, which include Lay, Nicolai, representatives from the Public Defender’s Office, county Department of Behavioral Health, and others, meet with parents whose children have missed nine or more school days without an excused absence. The board intentionally meets with parents who have truant kids in middle school or below.

Nevada County Behavioral Health Director Phebe Bell said the program has become less punitive and more supportive over time.

“‘What does this child and family need to be successful?’” she said officials ask. “A lot of times it’s support more than anything.”

Beginning in September or October, the board’s meetings are regularly held at the Nevada County Courthouse, said Lay.

About 20% of cases get referred for citations to the courts because the board isn’t able to reverse the truancy trend, said Lay. But he noted that schools use every tool they have to prevent student cases from appearing before the board in the first place.

“Schools are pretty darn good at working with you,” he said.

Lay didn’t have all the nuanced information describing the almost 60% improvement, but he said that in those cases the ship had righted itself enough that a court citation wasn’t needed.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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