WHAT IS TRUANCY?
Truancy is defined as an unexcused absence for any portion of the school day or any portion of a particular class without justifiable reason as determined by the administrator or designee. Truancy represents a blatant, intentional violation of compulsory attendance on the part of the student and will be handled in agreement with school rules and procedures.
CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley Central High School is serious about getting its students to class every day of the school year.
On Thursday evening at the high school's Fine Arts Building, school officials and Juvenile Court Magistrate Kurt Benson addressed more than 100 students and parents on the measures they will take to stop truancy.
However, the purpose of the presentation was "preventative, not punitive," Principal Todd Shoemaker told the students and their families.
The attending students and parents were there by special invitation, said Greg Geren, an assistant principal. Each invited student had accumulated 13 or more days of unexcused absences in the 2010-11 school year.
Bradley Central officials would not simply ignore the students' truant behavior just because it happened in the last school year, Shoemaker said. He said a number of the same students had continued a trend of excessive, unexcused absences this year.
"We are trying to stem the tide," Benson said of the truancy cases the county sees in family and juvenile courts.
Benson and the school officials repeated a consistent message to their audience: High absenteeism results in poor grades, invites a host of at-risk behaviors and leaves children unprepared for success in life.
Geren offered some simple data to make his case, saying 99 percent of the 108 freshmen who failed one or more classes last school year had attendance issues.
"It's hard for them to get an education if they are not here," he said.
To get their students college-ready and work-ready by graduation, the school and parents have to combat absenteeism, Shoemaker said.
"We want your child to graduate. We want them to be successful," he told the parents.
Tennessee law states that school attendance is mandatory, Benson said.
The school hosts a campus court every other Friday, typically addressing students with six or more unexcused absences, Geren said. He described campus court as a counseling session among the school, student and parents that is "refereed" by a juvenile court magistrate.
However, Benson said, if a student's attendance problems persist, the matter could wind up in juvenile court or family court. Escalated truancy issues could result in the involvement of Child Protective Services or even jail time for offending parents, he said.
"What I really want are young people in school," Benson said. "It's that simple."
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com