With more than 600,000 truant elementary school students statewide last year, and Los Angeles County facing a 20.5 percent elementary school truancy rate, the state is facing what Attorney General Kamala Harris calls a “crisis.”
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On Monday, Harris released the report “In School and On Track,” summarizing truancy and absenteeism statistics in California elementary schools.
It is something that local elementary school districts are conscious of and actively addressing, evidenced by the fact that the truancy rate for the Santa Clarita Valley is much lower than the county as a whole, according to Joyce Johnston, director of student support services at Saugus Union School District.
Johnston is currently the administrator of the joint Student Attendance Review Board that encompasses all the elementary school districts in the SCV.
Johnston said that there aren’t enough truant students in each district alone to justify having separate review boards.
Also on the board are representatives from the District Attorney, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the Child and Family Center and others.
Statewide, there is often a correlation between truant elementary school students and high school dropouts, especially among low-income and at-risk students.
The schools also suffer a loss in funding.
“School districts lose $1.4 billion per year by failing to get students to school because school funding is based on student attendance rates,” according to the report.
Locally, Johnston said that truancy is most often not related to low income or at risk situations.
“In our area, it’s not the truancy that you would think of,” she said, explaining that the local review board usually deals with parents who decide to take their children on vacation during the school year without notifying the school district.
Johnston said that students are allowed to take work with them on vacations for up to 15 days, but families need to fill out the right paperwork first.
Ultimately, the review board only has to contact about 45 families each year.
Most other truancy issues are dealt with by each individual school.
“The principals do jump on it right away,” Johnston said. “…The entire valley has been very proactive and we’ve been right out in the forefront of keeping our kids in school every day.”
Harris’ report suggests that “…schools, districts, and counties should go beyond the legal requirements and reach out to families early and often to address a child’s attendance problem.”
It would seem that, according to Johnston, this is something that the Santa Clarita Valley is already doing.
“We keep attendance monthly,” she said, “and we have meetings with parents as often as we can, and we take that very, very seriously.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News