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Draft Report and Recommendations of Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy

Draft Report and Recommendations of Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy

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07/19/2013

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1
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON SCHOOL SAFETY AND TRUANCYCOMMITTEE REPORTCOUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20004
________________________________________________________________________
TO:
All Councilmembers
FROM:
Sekou BiddleChair, Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy
DATE:
April 18, 2011
SUBJECT:
Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy Interim Report andRecommendations on School Safety and Truancy Reduction.The Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy, having conducted two publichearings on the issue of school safety and truancy, reports its interim recommendationsfor review and consideration by the Committee of the Whole.______________________________________________
Content of the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy Interim ReportI.
 
Background and Need Page 1II.
 
Public Hearings Page 6III.
 
Research on Best Practices Page 28IV.
 
Committee Recommendations Page 35V.
 
Committee Action Page 38VI.
 
Appendix A: Current Laws and Regulations Governing Page 38TruancyVII.
 
Appendix B: Public Hearing Page 49I. Background and Need
The Council of the District of Columbia is deeply concerned about the high truancy rates
 
 
2among the District of Columbia public school students. Experience predicts that many of the District’s current students with high rates of truancy will never finish school and, as aresult, most likely will struggle to become responsible, productive citizens. The Council’sand the Administration’s commitment to implementing the Education Reform Plan willonly be hollow rhetoric if the District can’t keep its students in school, engaged andgrowing academically and intellectually and completing the full course of study requiredfor graduation.To address the increasing truancy rates, in January 2011 Council Chair Kwame Browncreated the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy and assigned At LargeCouncilmember Sekou Biddle to chair the Committee. The Committee was charged withconducting a comprehensive study and holding hearings to “determine the current state of safety in the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools, includingexamination of issues pertaining to school violence, truancy interventions and othersupports, communication with law enforcement, bullying, gang prevention, and saferoutes to and from school.”
1
Truancy at an acute level:
During the first semester of the 2010-2011 school year, 3700DCPS students were truant, with 13 percent of secondary school students labeled as“chronic truants” with 15 or more unexcused absences.The Committee was also charged with preparing a reportthat provides recommendations for increasing safety in public schools and decreasingtruancy.Since its establishment, the Committee has held two hearings, talked more informallywith parents, teachers, students, community-based organizations and governmentadministrators and agency heads. The Committee examined best practices through whichother jurisdictions with similar problems have been able to reduce truancy and increasegraduation rates. A review of laws, regulations, standards and definitions currentlygoverning truancy in the District has been begun as well.Clearly, the Committee will continue its work over the year of its designated charge, butgiven the enormity of the District’s truancy problem, it has decided to prepare an interimreport, presenting its findings and recommendations to date.The Committee has found the following conditions that exist in the District that impactschool attendance and completion:
2
A student who isnot in schoolfor 60 percent of the school day without a valid excuse is counted truant.
3
Truancy a behavior that leads to dropping out of school:
Student with high levels of 
1
 
Resolution 19-9, the Council of the District of Columbia, January 18, 2011
2
 
Lisa Gartner, Nearly 4,000 truant from District schools last semester, The WashingtonExaminer (February 3, 2011).
3
 
Testimony of Chancellor Kaya Henderson, DCPS, March 16, 2011.
 
 
3truancies frequently drop out of school, a personal tragedy, but also a financial burdentransferred to the taxpayer.
4
On average, a high school dropout will cost taxpayers in hislifetime $292,000 in lower tax revenues, public assistance benefits, and imposedincarceration costs relative to a high school graduate.
5
Student and family behavioral health problems contribute to truancy:
Witnesses
Warnings of a behavioral pattern leading to chronic truancy seen early:
Truancy inthe District begins in the early grades, becomes a pattern in the middle school years andexplains, in part, a pattern in which 48.8 percent of ninth graders fail to graduate withinfour years.
Truant students impact attendance behaviors of other students:
Truant students,while cheating themselves of a responsible, productive future, frequently endanger otherstudents who are attempting to travel back and forth to school safely. Truant students areoften connected to neighborhood crime.
Unsafe schools contribute to truancy:
Internal school safety issues can and do, inidentified situations, cause truancy when students are not able to travel safely back andforth to school or are unable to safely move between classes within the school.Suspension practices must be monitored closely to ensure that students are not pushed outof school.
Domestic and dating violence and teenage pregnancies part of the picture of schoolsafety and truancy:
Witnesses testified that as much as 43 percent of teen datingviolence incidents were reported to have taken place on a school campus and teen victimsof dating violence report higher rates of truancy, more negative contact with theirteachers and increased conflict with other students.
Bullying and harassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity contributeto truancy
: Representatives of organizations working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transgender and Questioning (“LGBTQ”) youth testified that their clients were“disproportionately affected by school safety issues like bullying, harassment andviolence.”
Limited family resources, lack of money for transportation and appropriateclothing contribute to truancy:
Practitioners and teachers stated that factors rangingfrom the availability of clean clothing, appropriate winter clothing and Metro fare,especially during the last two weeks of the month prevent school attendance.
4
 
Michael Birnbaum, D.C. graduation rates down, Washington Post (June 9, 2009).
5
 
Sum, A., Khatiwada, I., & McLaughlin, J. (2009). The consequences of dropping outof high school: Joblessness and jailing for high school dropouts and the cost fortaxpayers. Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University.

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