Truancy in America

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Truancy is the first sign that a youngster is giving up and losing his or her way. Research shows that students who become truant and eventually drop out of school put themselves at a long-term disadvantage in becoming productive citizens. Dropouts are more likely to be on welfare or unemployed than high school graduates. High truancy rates are also linked to high daytime burglary rates, vandalism, and juvenile gang activity. In some cities, unexcused absences can number in the thousands daily. Combating truancy is a way for communities to reach out quickly to disaffected young people and help families struggling with rebellious teenagers. This guide offers parents, school officials, law enforcement agencies, and
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Kinder, Wakefield and Wilkin (1996) report on interviews with 160 children in Year 7 and above. For the children, the main causes of truancy and disruption are described (in rank order) as:

The influence of friends and peers, who are seen encouraging truancy as a status-seeking activity or as a way of joining in or blending in, and sometimes teasing or goading the child into truanting
Relationships with teachers, seen as lacking respect/fairness
The content and delivery of the curriculum, seen as lacking in relevance and stimulus
Family factors, either parental attitudes or family problems
Bullying; and

The classroom context, either because of teachers’ inability to control, or problems arising from the child’s own personality or learning abilities.
The authors note the preponderance of boys in their sample, ‘perhaps reflecting the gender bias of disaffected behavior’, but their interviewees range from the permanently excluded to those whose behavior or attendance was just beginning to cause the school concern.

The views of professionals in schools and Education Welfare Services collected and analyzed by Kinder, Harland, Wilkin and Wakefield (1995) also include personal factors, family and community factors and school factors amongst the causes of truancy. Individual factors included: lack of self-esteem/social skills/confidence; poor peer relations; lack of academic ability; special needs; and lack of
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