Each school day, hundreds of thousands of students are missing from their classrooms – many without a bona fide excuse. Left unchecked, truancy is a risk factor for serious juvenile delinquency. Truancy’s impact also extends into the adult years where it has been linked to numerous negative outcomes (Morgan, 2003). Consequently, it is critical to identify strategies that intervene effectively with youth who are chronically truant and that interrupt their progress to delinquency and other negative behaviors by addressing the underlying reasons behind their absence from school.
Effective solutions depend on clear goals and a clear allocation of responsibility, encompassing schools and parents, the police and local authorities (Ardoin, 2003). Schools clearly have a central role to play through high standards, committed teachers, and careful steps to ensure that children do not become disinterested because they cannot keep up. Discipline matters too, and in the best schools, there are unambiguous rules and a clear hierarchy of sanctions applied consistently when the rules are broken. That means parents, staff and governors stand “shoulder to shoulder” on discipline, and children are in no doubt that they must attend school and behave (Epsten, 2002, 28(7), 7-15).
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