How to Deal with a High School Student who Repeatedly Plays Truant

When a high school student plays truant, it is a cry out for change or help. Therefore, before taking a look at possible solutions it is necessary to look at where the problem may stem from. Truancy has to do with a combination of factors both in the youngster’s personal life and in the school. Personal reasons may be a lack of self-esteem or self worth because of low academic performance. Lower career aspirations may even play a role, which come from family background and parental intervention or lack of it (Reid 2002:11).

On the other hand the academic environment may be the one pushing the student away. Whether the school is too far away from home or old and dilapidated or if the students need to go from building to building to attend classes, it has a say in the mood of the student. Of course, here the community or board of education needs to address the problem.

A more frequent reason may be that the educator is distant, incomprehensible or even the classroom management may be such that does not allow for learning. Furthermore, the lessons may be boring, the teacher may often humiliate him/her or the adolescent which is often absent from school may be a victim of bullying. However, there is a difference between being afraid to attend school and playing truant.

In the first case the child tells the parents and stays home, whereas in the latter he/she goes to school but sometime in the process leaves the premises. It is, therefore, obvious that the steps to take are:

*First look at the individual student; family background, school performance and relationships with teachers.

*Second step is to speak with the youngster and listen to him or her. When the student knows that the school counselor and teacher(s) are interested in his/her well being, he/she will more than likely be open and provide answers to the ‘why’.

Judith A. Martinez of the National Center for School Engagement (NCSE) at the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children in Denver, Colorado, suggests that there should be school policies geared to ‘include’ students in school rather than ‘exclude’. School policies that exclude and push students out of school are those that are focused on punishment and not on incentives to include the student in a more active and welcoming environment.  Three steps that she recommends are as follows:

1~Evaluate school policies that deal with truancy to determine if they encourage attendance or indirectly exclude students. For example, schools could adopt a “no more suspensions for truancy” policy. 

2~Establish Student Attendance Review Boards. Their purpose would be to ensure a community-based approach to identify and address the causes of truancy at their roots. California has instituted this approach to attendance problems.

3~Better tracking of student attendance in school. It is suggested that it be done on a school-wide and district-level basis. By tracking excused and unexcused absences and/or being tardy in a consistent manner will help in observing the students with the greater problem.

It has been proven time and again that when children feel accepted and valued they will try their best. Such proof is in several elementary schools in the United States which adopted the “A-team” idea. What this does is provide a mentor for those at-risk students letting them know that someone is concerned about their well being and learning. It need not stop there, of course, teenagers need this sort of support just as much if not more so. Adolescence is a transitioning time in their lives that may be the most intricate they may face. Additional tutoring support on difficult subjects to ensure academic understanding and improvement is also necessary.

Once a student and one of low performance, in fact, this writer can testify to all of the above being true. It cannot be stressed enough that the school (teachers & counselors) need to be in cooperation with the parents, but more so close to the student. This entails time, lots of time, when dealing with schools which have thousands of students. However, it will make the difference between the desolation and deliverance of a community.