Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Truancy: It’s Not About Skipping School

  • Published:
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Truancy and related school attendance issues are serious problems nationwide, and are often the result of a punitive school-based paradigm that harms more students than the protocols help. While some school districts and juvenile courts have shifted toward a rehabilitative paradigm and approach truancy with preventive efforts, unfortunately, this is not the norm. This manuscript summarizes and reviews: (1) the prevalence of the problems within schools and juvenile courts; (2) truancy and delinquency’s inter-related risk and protective factors for children and adolescents and the disproportionate impact on some students; and (3) the evidence of what schools and related stakeholders can do to improve student truancy/attendance problem outcomes. The analysis concludes with case examples from two states (Colorado and Ohio) that have taken dichotomous approaches to addressing truancy, and what child and adolescent social workers should do to fix the problems.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Abram, K. M., Teplin, L. A., King, D. C., Longworth, S. L., Emanual, K., Romero, E. G., et al. (2013). PTSD, trauma, and comorbid psychiatric disorders in detained youth. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Addington, L. A. (2014). Surveillance and security approaches across public school levels. In G. W. Muschert, S. Henry, N. L. Bracy, & A. A. Peguero (Eds.), Responding to school violence: Confronting the Columbine effect (pp. 71–88). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Advancement Project, Education Law Center – PA. (2011). FairTest, The Forum for Education and Democracy, Juvenile Law Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Federal policy, ESEA reauthorization, and the school-to-prison pipeline, Washington, DC.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on School Health. (2013). Out-of-school suspension and expulsion. Pediatrics, 131(3), 1000–1007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • American Psychological Association. (2006). Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? An evidentiary review and recommendations. A report by the American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Policy Task Force, Washington, DC.

  • Arum, R. (2003). Judging school discipline: The crisis of moral authority. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Austin, V., Brewer, K., Conley, R., Fiorentino, C., & Smith, D. (2014). Using multi-tiered systems of support to address the social-emotional needs of students in Maryland. Baltimore, MD: Maryland’s Summer Internship Program Policy Paper 1.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baird, C., Healy, T., Johnson, K., Bogie, A., Dankert, E. W., & Scharenbroch, C. (2013). A comparison of risk assessment instruments in juvenile justice. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baker, M. I., Sigmon, J. N., & Nugent, E. (2001). Truancy reduction: Keeping students in school. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Promotion, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bazemore, G. (2001). Young people, trouble, and crime: Restorative justice as a normative theory of informal social control and social support. Youth & Society, 33(2), 199–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berkowitz, M. W., & Bier, M. C. (2005). What works in charter education: A research driven guide for educators. Washington, DC: Charter Education Partnership.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bradshaw, C., Koth, C., Bevans, K., Ialongo, N., & Leaf, P. (2008). The impact of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) on the organizational health of elementary schools. School Psychology Quarterly, 23, 462–473.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bradshaw, C. P., Mitchell, M. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Examining the effects of schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports on student outcomes. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(3), 133–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burke, A., & Nishioka, V. (2014). Suspension and expulsion patterns in six Oregon school districts (REL 2014-028). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest.

    Google Scholar 

  • Calhoun, A., & Daniels, G. (2008). Accountability in school responses to harmful incidents. Journal of School Violence, 7, 21–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Center for Civil Rights Remedies. (2014). Keeping California’s kids in school. CA: Los Angeles.

    Google Scholar 

  • Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA. (2008). School attendance problems: Are current policies & practices going in the right direction?. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chang, H. N., & Romero, M. (2008). Present, engaged, and accounted for: The critical importance of addressing chronic absence in the early grades. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coalition for Juvenile Justice. (2013). National standards for the care of youth charged with status offenses. Washington, DC: Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

  • Cuevas, C. A., Finkelhor, D., Shattuck, A., Turner, H., & Hamby, S. (2013). Children’s exposure to violence and the intersection between delinquency and victimization. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Promotion, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis, A., Irvine, A., & Ziedenberg, J. (2014). Stakeholders’ views on the movement to reduce youth incarceration. Oakland, CA: National Council on Crime & Delinquency.

    Google Scholar 

  • Development Services Group. (2010). Truancy prevention: Literature review. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    Google Scholar 

  • Development Services Group. (2015). Status offenders: Literature review. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    Google Scholar 

  • Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2007). The impact of after-school program that promise personal and social skills. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fabelo, T., Thompson, M. D., Plotkin, M., Carmichael, D., Marchbanks, M. P. III, & Booth, E. A. (2011). Breaking school s’ rules: A statewide study of how school discipline relates to students’ success and juvenile justice involvement. New York, NY: College Station, TX: Council of State Governments Justice Center; Public Research Policy Research Institute of Texas A & M University.

  • Fagan, J. (2000). Contexts of choice by adolescents in criminal events. In T. Grisso & R. Schwartz (Eds.), Youth on trial. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fowler, D. (2015). Criminalization of truancyin Texas: Prosecution of "failure to attend school" in adult criminal courts. Austin, TX: Texas Appleseed.

    Google Scholar 

  • Giedd, J. N. (2004). Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 83, 1021.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gonzalez, T. (2015). Socializing schools: Addressing racial disparities in discipline through restorative justice. In D. J. Losen (Ed.), Closing the school discipline gap: Research for policymakers. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gottfredson, G. D., Gottfredson, D. C., Payne, A. A., & Gottfredson, N. C. (2005). School climate predictors of school disorder: Results from a national study of delinquency prevention in schools. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42, 412–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gregory, A., Bell, J., & Pollock, M. (2014). How educators can eradicate disparities in school discipline: A briefing paper on school-based interventions. Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative. The Equity Project at Indiana University, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Bloomington, IN.

  • Grisso, T., Barnum, R., Fletcher, K., Cauffman, E., & Peuschold, D. (2001). Massachusetts youth screen instruments for mental health needs of juvenile justice youths. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40, 541–548.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hafen, C. A., Allen, J. P., Mikami, A. Y., Gregory, A., Hamre, B., & Pianta, R. C. (2010). The pivotal role of adolescent autonomy in secondary classrooms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 245–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hammond, C., Linton, D., Smink, J., & Drew, S. (2007). Dropout risk factors and exemplary programs: A technical report. Clemson, S.C.: National Dropout Prevention Center/Network and Communities in Schools, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heilbrunn, J. Z. (2007). Pieces of the truancy jigsaw: A literature review. Denver, CO: National Center for School Engagement.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hereth, J., Kaba, M., Meiniers, E. R., & Wallace, L. (2012). Restorative justice is not enough. In S. Bahena, N. Cooc, R. Currie-Rubin, P. Kuttner, & M. Ng (Eds.), Disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline (pp. 240–264). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Review.

    Google Scholar 

  • Himmelstein, K. E. W., & Bruckner, H. (2011). Criminal-justice and school sanctions against nonheterosexual youth: A national longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 127(1), 49–57.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Hockenberry, S., & Puzzanchera, C. (2014). Juvenile court statistics, 2011. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howell, J. C. (2003). Preventing & reducing juvenile delinquency: A comprehensive framework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kang-Brown, J., Trone, J., Fratello, J., & Daftary-Kapur, T. (2013). A generation later: What we’ve learned about zero tolerance in schools. New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice, Center on Youth Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kohli, R. (2012). Racial pedagogy of the oppressed: Critical interracial dialogue for teachers of color. Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(1), 181–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kupchik, A. (2010). Homeroom security: School discipline in an age of fear. New York: New York University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Latimer, J., Dowden, C., & Muise, D. (2005). The effectiveness of restorative justice practices: A meta-analysis. Prison Journal, 85(2), 127–144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leone, P., & Weinberg, L. (2010). Addressing the unmet educational needs of children and youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Washington, DC: Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Georgetown University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levin, M., & Cohen, D. (2014). Kids doing time for what’s not a crime: The over-incarceration of status offenders. Austin, TX: Texas Public Policy Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Losen, D. L., Hewitt, D., & Toldson, I. (2014). Eliminating excessive and unfair discipline in schools: Policy recommendations for reducing disparities. Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative. The Equity Project at Indiana University, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Bloomington, IN.

  • Macready, T. (2009). Learning social responsibility in schools: A restorative practice. Educational Psychology in Practice, 25, 211–220.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Majd, K. (2011). Students of the mass incarceration nation. Howard Law Journal, 54(2), 343–394.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mallett, C. (2013). Linking disorders to delinquency: Treating high-risk youth in the juvenile justice system. Boulder, CO: First Forum Press/Lynne Rienner Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mallett, C. (2016). The school-to-prison pipeline: A comprehensive assessment. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • McKinney, S. (2013). Truancy: A research brief. New York, NY: Vera Institute of Justice, Status Offense Resource Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mears, D. P., & Aron, L. Y. (2003). Addressing the needs of youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system: The current state of knowledge. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mendel, R. A. (2012). No place for kids: The case for reducing juvenile incarceration. Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Minkos, M., Latham, S., & Sugai, G. (2014). Systematic descriptive literature review of restorative justice practices: PBIS: Building capacity and partnerships to enhance educational reform (poster session), October 29th, Rosemont IL.

  • Moffitt, T. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, E., Salomon, N., Plotkin, M., & Cohen, R. (2014). The school discipline consensus report: Strategies from the field to keep students engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system. Washington, DC: The Council of State Governments Justice Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Muscott, H. S., Mann, E., Benjamin, T. B., Gately, S., Bell, K. E., & Muscott, A. J. (2004). Positive behavioral interventions and supports in New Hampshire: Preliminary results of a statewide system for implementing schoolwide discipline practices. Education and Treatment of Children, 27, 453–475.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Center for School Engagement. (2007). Pieces of the truancy jigsaw: A literature review. Denver, CO: National Center for School Engagement.

  • National Council on Crime and Delinquency. (2007). And justice for some: Differential treatment of youth of color in the justice system. CA: Oakland.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition. (2013). Promoting safe communities: Recommendations for the 113th Congress. Washington, DC: National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition.

  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2015). State use of valid court order exception. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

    Google Scholar 

  • Osher, D., Bear, G. G., Sprague, J. R., & Doyle, W. (2010). How can we improve school discipline? Educational Researcher, 39(1), 48–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Payton, J., Weissberg, R. P., Durlak, J. A., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., Schellinger, K. B., & Pachan, M. (2008). The positive impact of social and emotional learning for kindergarten to eighth-grade students: Findings from three scientific reviews. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

    Google Scholar 

  • Person, A. E., Moiduddin, E., Hague-Angus, M., & Malone, L. M. (2009). Survey of outcomes measurement in research on character education prorams. Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Evaluations and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • Petrosino, A., Turpin-Petrosino, C., & Guckenburg, S. (2010). Formal system processing on juveniles: Effects on delinquency. Campbell System Reviews, 6(1), 1–42.

  • Piquero, A. R., Farrington, D., & Blumstein, A. (2003). The criminal career paradigm. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research 30. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Puzzanchera, C., & Robson, C. (2014). Delinquency cases in juvenile court, 2010. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rivkin, D. H. (2010). Decriminalizing students with disabilities. New York Law School Law Review, 54, 909–942.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenberg, M. S., & Jackman, L. A. (2003). Development, implementation, and sustainability of comprehensive school-wide behavior management systems. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39, 10–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salsich, A., & Trone, J. (2013). From courts to communities: The right response to truancy, running away, and other status offenses. New York, NY: Status Offense Reform Center, The Vera Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schiff, M. (2013). Dignity, disparity and desistance: Effective restorative justice strategies to plug the “school-to-prison pipeline”. Paper presented at the Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice Conference, Washington, DC.

  • Scott, E. S., & Steinberg, L. (2008). Adolescent development and the regulation of youth crime. The Future of Children, 18(2), 16–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sedlak, A. J., & McPherson, K. (2010). Survey of youth in residential placement: Youth’s needs and services. SYRP Report, Rockville, MD: Westat.

  • Seeley, K. (2008). Truancy prevention: Research, policy and practices. Denver, CO: National Center for School Engagement.

    Google Scholar 

  • Skiba, R. J., Arrendonda, M. I., & Rausch, M. K. (2014). New and developing research on disparities in discipline. Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative. The Equity Project at Indiana University, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Bloomington, IN.

  • Skiba, R. J., & Williams, N. T. (2014). Are black kids worse? Myths and facts about racial differences in behavior. Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative. The Equity Project at Indiana University, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Bloomington, IN.

  • Social and Character Development Research Consortium. (2010). Efficacy of school-wide programs to promote social and character development and reduce problem behavior in elementary school children. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • Somerville, L. H., & Casey, B. (2010). Developmental neurobiology of cognitive control and motivational systems. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 20(2), 236–241.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Sprague, J. R., Vincent, C. G., Tobin, T. J., & CHiXapkaid. (2013). Preventing disciplinary exclusions of students from American Indian/Alaska Native backgrounds. Family Court Review, 51, 452–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steinberg, L. (2007). Risk-taking in adolescence: New perspectives from brain and behavioral science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 55–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steinberg, M. P., Allensworth, E., & Johnson, D. W. (2013). What conditions jeopardize and support safety in urban schools? The influence of community characteristics, school composition and school organizational practices on student and teacher reports of safety in Chicago. Paper presented at the Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice conference, Washington, DC.

  • Steinberg, L., Dahl, R., Keating, D., Kupfer, D. J., & Masten, A. S. (2006). The study of development psychopathology in adolescence: Integrating affective neuroscience with the study of context. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental Psychopathology (2nd ed., pp. 710–741). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2010). School-wide positive behavior support: Establishing a continuum of evidence-based practices. Journal of Evidence-based Practices for Schools, 11(1), 62–83.

    Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Civil rights data collection, data snapshot: School discipline, Issue brief No. 1. Office of Civil Rights, Washington, DC.

  • U.S. Department of Justice. (2012). Disproportionate minority contact technical assistance manual (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Department of Justice. (2014). OJJDP statistical briefing book. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vincent, C. G., Sprague, J. R., & Gau, J. M. (2013). The effectiveness of School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports for reducing racially inequitable disciplinary exclusions in middle schools. Paper presented at the Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice conference, Washington, DC.

  • Washington State Institute for Public Policy. (2007). Evidence-based juvenile offender programs: Program description, quality assurance, and cost. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

  • What Works Clearinghouse. (2006). Connect with kids. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yeide, M., & Kobrin, M. (2009). Truancy literature review. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Promotion, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher A. Mallett.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mallett, C.A. Truancy: It’s Not About Skipping School. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 33, 337–347 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-015-0433-1

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-015-0433-1

Keywords

Navigation