“[It] made me realize the importance of coming to school on time every day and getting my work done. When the Truancy Court Program helped me get on track I realized how good it felt to achieve my goals and be at the top of all of my classes, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
The Truancy Court Program (TCP) is non-punitive and strictly voluntary for students and their families. Like all of CFCC's programs, the TCP is based on a therapeutic, holistic and non-adversarial approach to the law. The TCP rewards students for positive behaviors and provides weekly incentives to encourage school attendance.
The TCP is based on an early intervention model and targets students who are “soft” truants – students who have from 5 to 30 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 program operates weekly in each school for 10 to 14 weeks per session, with two sessions (Fall and Spring) each school year. A key component of each weekly meeting is a conversation between the student and a Maryland judge or magistrate, who volunteers to support the TCP. Parents/caregivers are encouraged to attend these meetings if they can.
Features of the program include:
- A TCP Attorney provides legal guidance and referrals to legal services providers, individual advocacy and information regarding educational rights designed to enable students and families to become effective self-advocates.
- A TCP Coordinator serves as the program’s liaison with judges and schools.
- A TCP Mentor works with students and parents participating in the TCP and facilitates character-building/restorative practices classes and individual mentoring. During each TCP session, students participate in Restorative Practice Circles led by the TCP Mentor. These circles facilitate discussions among students and the TCP staff on a variety of topics, including poverty, academic issues, peer pressure and social rejection. Students learn communication and problem-solving techniques they can put to use in their daily lives. The TCP Mentor also meets with students one-on-one, as needed, and communicates with parents at least once a week to ensure that they remain engaged, informed and empowered.
- A TCP Social Worker provides counseling and advocacy and makes referrals to services providers.
- A TCP Volunteer Initiative brings volunteer tutors from the University of Baltimore community to the TCP schools. Learn how UBalt students can get involved.
- Recognition of students’ progress includes weekly incentives or rewards for achievement, and each session culminates in a graduation ceremony that recognizes all students’ participation. Graduates, who demonstrate a substantial increase in attendance, better classroom behavior and/or improved grades, receive a gift and a graduation certificate. Other students receive a certificate of improvement or participation.
- Workshops help students visualize a successful future and realize their dreams—from school choice and the college application process to employment rights and résumé writing.
- Parent outreach and workshops empower families to address a wide range of issues that can help families achieve their goals—understanding their legal and educational rights, financial literacy and information on college admission and financial aid, for example.
- Enrichment activities, based on funding availability, celebrate students’ achievements and help engage parents in the TCP through events such as pizza parties, fun/educational activities and excursions.