Addressing Truancy and Attendance to Change Communities and Courts
Early intervention addressing problems that underlie truancy can prevent this behavior from leading to delinquency, crime, and violence. CFCC's Truancy Court Program addresses the root causes of truant behavior and links families to needed social services or other community-based supports.
Why focus on truancy?
There is a significant and growing body of research demonstrating that truancy is one of the strongest early predictors for teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, crime, dependency, dropout, unemployment, and more. A problem-solving approach to truancy reduces these risks and saves families and communities from serious and costly outcomes.
Schools and communities need to develop effective and evidence-based solutions.
What is CFCC's Truancy Court Program?
CFCC's Truancy Court Program (TCP) is an innovative, early intervention and holistic approach to truant behavior that addresses the root causes of truancy. The program, strictly voluntary on the part of students and their families, consists of ten weekly in-school meetings per session (with one session in the Fall and another in the Spring). The TCP meeting involves the student, his or her family, teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, principals, CFCC staff, a law student, and a volunteer judge. TCP students also meet weekly with a TCP mentor, who calls the home once a week to engage family members.
The purpose of the TCP meetings is to identify and address the reasons why each participating child is not attending school regularly and/or on-time. Once the causes of truant behavior are uncovered, the TCP team puts resources into place that target truant behavior and support the student’s regular school attendance, graduation from high school, and, ultimately, service as a productive member of the community.
When possible, CFCC also provides ancillary arts education programs, including photography and theater, at TCP schools to increase engagement and attachment to school among TCP participants and their peers.
Does the TCP work?
Data indicate that the TCP is making a dramatic difference in attendance rates and school behavior, with three quarters of the participants graduating and an average reduction in unexcused absences of 71% in the Fall 2011 session. Data also show that the TCP's impact extends throughout the school year.
Several years ago, CFCC Director and Associate Professor of Law Barbara A. Babb presented an overview of the TCP at the National Leadership Summit on School-Justice Partnerships: Keeping Kids In School and Out of Court. Download her presentation here or learn more below.
Whom does the TCP target?
The TCP is based on an early interventionmodeland targets students who are “soft” truants – students who have from five to twenty unexcused absences in a semester – in the belief that this group still has academic, social, and emotional connections to the school. The TCP is a preventive program, attempting to address the underlying causes of truancy before it becomes chronic and more difficult to change.
The TCP has served approximately 1,000 students and their families since its inception in 2005.
Is TCP punitive?
The TCP is non-punitive. Like all of CFCC's programs, the TCP is based on a therapeutic and non-adversarial approach to the law. The TCP rewards students for positive behaviors and provides weekly incentives to encourage school attendance.
Graduationsreward students who demonstrate a minimum 65% decrease in unexcused absences and/or tardies, improved behavior, and academic achievement. The First Lady of Maryland, the Honorable Catherine Curran O'Malley, hosts a yearly reception for all graduates and their families.
What is the TCP Mentoring Program?
"Character Building Classes" are held throughout the TCP session while students wait to meet with the TCP Judge. They cover issues ranging from listening skills to peer pressure to goal-setting and organization and are taught by professional TCP mentors. The TCP mentors also meet with students one-on-one, as needed, and communicate with parents at least once a week to ensure that they remain engaged, informed and empowered.
What other activities are associated with the TCP?
The Kids & Cameras Program teaches photography to TCP students. Students learn the history of photography, how to use photography to express certain emotions and theme, and basic photography skills.
The Kids & Theater Program exposes students to scripted acting and improvisation, based upon the students' interest. Trained teaching artists work with students to create improvised scenes that are converted into short plays. At the end of the ten-week program, students perform for family, friends and the community.
What are the TCP's Family Fun Activities?
The TCP provides all of its participants with an afternoon or evening of family-friendly activities to engage and support TCP families. These events are held at the school, are open to TCP participants and all of their family members, and include a pizza party and games or movies.
How can I get involved?
- Fund the TCP or one of its features at a school
- Sponsor breakfast for weekly TCP sessions
- Donate incentives, goods, and services
- Mentor and/or tutor TCP students
- Conduct read-alouds at a TCP school
- Sponsor a competition for perfect attendance, including prizes for schools/students/classes
- Participate in a pen pal program with TCP students
- Sponsor/participate in career days
- Conduct workshops on how to apply for college and/or how to apply for a job
- Organize drives to collect one or some of the following: alarm clocks, backpacks, coats, books, incentives, school supplies, etc.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the TCP, please contact Gloria Danziger, CFCC Senior Fellow.
How do I get a TCP in my school or district?
CFCC has worked with many school districts to implement the TCP in targeted schools. We offer a menu of options, ranging from training and technical assistance to on-site operation of the program. If you are interested in addressing truancy in your school or district, please contact us to get started.
How can I get a copy of the Truancy Court Program Toolkit and Mentor Manual?