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, N.W., Washington D.C. 20004 ________________________________________________________________________ TO: FROM: All Councilmembers Sekou Biddle Chair, Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy April 18, 2011 Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy Interim Report and Recommendations on School Safety and Truancy Reduction.
The Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy, having conducted two public hearings on the issue of school safety and truancy, reports its interim recommendations for review and consideration by the Committee of the Whole. ______________________________________________ Content of the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy Interim Report I. II. III. IV. V. VI. Background and Need Public Hearings Research on Best Practices Committee Recommendations Committee Action Appendix A: Current Laws and Regulations Governing Truancy Appendix B: Public Hearing Page 1 Page 6 Page 28 Page 35 Page 38 Page 38
I. Background and Need The Council of the District of Columbia is deeply concerned about the high truancy rates 1
among 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 a result, most likely will struggle to become responsible, productive citizens. The Council’s and the Administration’s commitment to implementing the Education Reform Plan will only be hollow rhetoric if the District can’t keep its students in school, engaged and growing academically and intellectually and completing the full course of study required for graduation. To address the increasing truancy rates, in January 2011 Council Chair Kwame Brown created the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy and assigned At Large Councilmember Sekou Biddle to chair the Committee. The Committee was charged with conducting a comprehensive study and holding hearings to “determine the current state of safety in the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools, including examination of issues pertaining to school violence, truancy interventions and other supports, communication with law enforcement, bullying, gang prevention, and safe routes to and from school.” 1 The Committee was also charged with preparing a report that provides recommendations for increasing safety in public schools and decreasing truancy. Since its establishment, the Committee has held two hearings, talked more informally with parents, teachers, students, community-based organizations and government administrators and agency heads. The Committee examined best practices through which other jurisdictions with similar problems have been able to reduce truancy and increase graduation rates. A review of laws, regulations, standards and definitions currently governing truancy in the District has been begun as well. Clearly, the Committee will continue its work over the year of its designated charge, but given the enormity of the District’s truancy problem, it has decided to prepare an interim report, presenting its findings and recommendations to date. The Committee has found the following conditions that exist in the District that impact school attendance and completion: Truancy at an acute level: During the first semester of the 2010-2011 school year, 3700 DCPS students were truant, with 13 percent of secondary school students labeled as “chronic truants” with 15 or more unexcused absences. 2 A student who is not in school for 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
Resolution 19-9, the Council of the District of Columbia, January 18, 2011 Lisa Gartner, Nearly 4,000 truant from District schools last semester, The Washington Examiner (February 3, 2011). 3 Testimony of Chancellor Kaya Henderson, DCPS, March 16, 2011. 2
truancies frequently drop out of school, a personal tragedy, but also a financial burden transferred to the taxpayer. 4 On average, a high school dropout will cost taxpayers in his lifetime $292,000 in lower tax revenues, public assistance benefits, and imposed incarceration costs relative to a high school graduate. 5 Warnings of a behavioral pattern leading to chronic truancy seen early: Truancy in the District begins in the early grades, becomes a pattern in the middle school years and explains, in part, a pattern in which 48.8 percent of ninth graders fail to graduate within four years. Truant students impact attendance behaviors of other students: Truant students, while cheating themselves of a responsible, productive future, frequently endanger other students who are attempting to travel back and forth to school safely. Truant students are often connected to neighborhood crime. Unsafe schools contribute to truancy: Internal school safety issues can and do, in identified situations, cause truancy when students are not able to travel safely back and forth 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 out of school. Domestic and dating violence and teenage pregnancies part of the picture of school safety and truancy: Witnesses testified that as much as 43 percent of teen dating violence incidents were reported to have taken place on a school campus and teen victims of dating violence report higher rates of truancy, more negative contact with their teachers and increased conflict with other students. Bullying and harassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity contribute to 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 and violence.” Limited family resources, lack of money for transportation and appropriate clothing contribute to truancy: Practitioners and teachers stated that factors ranging from the availability of clean clothing, appropriate winter clothing and Metro fare, especially during the last two weeks of the month prevent school attendance. Student and family behavioral health problems contribute to truancy: Witnesses
Michael Birnbaum, D.C. graduation rates down, Washington Post (June 9, 2009). Sum, A., Khatiwada, I., & McLaughlin, J. (2009). The consequences of dropping out of high school: Joblessness and jailing for high school dropouts and the cost for taxpayers. Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University. 3
testified that it was critical to strengthening D.C, Department of Mental Health “so that accessible, high quality evidenced-based mental health programs are provided to families.” Truancy impacts the safety of neighborhoods and public spaces: Truant students frequently are linked to an increase in crime during school hours, including assaults and larceny on Metrorail trains and at Metrorail stations. In 2010, Metro Transit Police made a total of 2012 arrests, and of that number, 25 percent were youths, many committing these crimes between the hours of 8am and 4pm. 6 Truancy and drop-outs costs taxpayers: On average, a high school dropout will cost taxpayers in his lifetime $292,000 in lower tax revenues, public assistance benefits, and imposed incarceration costs relative to a high school graduate.
On the positive side, actions have been taken by the Administration and agency heads that have promise: Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s Truancy Task Force intensifies efforts: Comprised of education, human services, and criminal justice/law enforcement agencies, the Task Force was formed to develop a truancy reduction strategy and to emphasis the importance of a common understanding among all citizens of the District about the impact of truancy so that root causes may be addressed. The citywide multi-agency approach of the Task Force helped reduce truancy by 41 percent in 2004. Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (“OSSE“) leads way on establishing clear definitions and regulations on Compulsory Education and School Attendance. These regulations bind all public schools in the District and require each local education agency (“LEA“) to develop procedures for monitoring, reporting, addressing and evaluating attendance and absences within the school. Laws pending authorization and pending legislation address identified problems: Families Together Amendment Act of 2010. Witnesses urged full implementation of the differential response system permitted by the Families Together Amendment Act. Community-based organizations and agency heads continue to believe that the bill provides solutions and that it needs to be funded. School Transit Subsidy Amendment Act of 2011. Teachers, parents, and students concur that for some families, the cost of transportation is a major barrier in determining whether or not students are able to attend school. School administration notes a pattern indicating that school attendance is substantially
Testimony of Chief Michael Taborn, Metro Transit Police, March 16, 2011. 4
weaker during the last two weeks of the month, when household money runs out. This bill would ensure that lack of Metro fare does not deprive District students of an education. South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011. Witnesses testified that a primary cause of truancy is undiagnosed and unaddressed behavioral health and special education needs. An undiagnosed child is susceptible to poor school performance, behavioral problems, and eventually truancy, school suspension and drop out. This bill would address the problem of early diagnosis and prevent more costly and impacting issues that inevitably arise without such early mental health intervention. District of Columbia-Wide Truancy Zone Establishment Act of 2011. Witnesses repeatedly testified of seeing truants in the District during the school day, including students patronizing private businesses and loitering on store grounds. The Committee recommends the introduction of legislation for the establishment of voluntary “truancy free zones”, whereby businesses would post signage to discourage truants from entering a place of business. The legislation also would establish standards for the distribution of information packets to businesses informing how to be in compliance with the existing truancy loitering laws, and establishment of a truancy hotline whereby the public, including store owners can report suspected truant behavior.
II. Public Hearings To date, the Committee has held two public hearings, 7 using the opportunity to identify areas of concern, successful policies currently in place in the District, as well as gather recommendations on how to combat truancy and make schools safer. February 26 and March 16 hearings On February 26, the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy held public hearings on the issue of School Safety and Truancy and heard the testimony individuals and groups representing education, youth services and law enforcement, as well as members of the general public, including students, teachers and parents. The March 16 hearing included the testimony of agency heads as well as others. Chairperson Biddle stated that the hearings’ purpose was to find potential solutions to the District’s truancy problem from the community and relevant stakeholders. The testimony of all the witnesses is attached as appendix B. The issues, concerns and recommendations of the witnesses are summarized as follows:
Student testimony A third grade student testified that kids get distracted and interfere with other students, inciting a fight. She asked that the school and the Council put programs in place that would help kids learn how to get along with each other. She suggested showing a movie at school that could educate kids about the dangers of fighting and she said finding a solution to this behavior is one way of improving school safety. A high school student testified that gang violence, girl fights, the lack of air conditioning and a dilapidated building make it difficult for students at his school to learn. He said that the deplorable conditions of the school building creates an atmosphere that lets students know they are not a priority, and makes it hard for them to seriously consider their education a priority. He also thought teachers should come from the same demographic background as the students. A Luke C. Moore student testified that he was a student that was not regularly attending class and that an attendance officer aggressively encouraged him to get back on track. The student said that there is a job shortage for young people. He also said that schools and communities should create activities for students if they want
February 26, 2011 March 16, 2011
Public Oversight Hearing on “School Safety and Truancy” Public Oversight Hearing (Continuation) on “School Safety and Truancy” 6
them to participate more in school. He also said that schools need teachers that connect with students to make those students want to go to school. Peers have a huge impact on this as well.
Parent and community testimony and recommendations Students are promoted to the next grade even though they have not achieved proficiency in their current grade. The next grade is even harder for the failing student and truancy becomes an attractive option. Failing students are not offered remedial instruction if they have not yet mastered basic skills in one or more subjects. Schools build barriers or prevent struggling students from attending. Students need to be taught beginning at the performance level they have achieved. Schools should not bar tardy children entrance to school and cause them to miss class. Lack of school uniforms should not be a reason to exclude students from school. Schools can eliminate chronic truancy with early prevention and intervention techniques. Truancy can be rectified, but only if elected officials, the Central Office of DCPS, DCPS administrators, nonprofit human service providers, clergy, and community members begin to work together. Ward 1 schools with the Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative have a program that could be a model. Causes of truancy are: o o o o o o deplorable conditions overcrowded classrooms violence at school, lack of resources, and not enough teachers practices such as dropping children from school rolls after 25 days absence without knowing why the child is not coming to school. Suspension of students from school for minor uniform infractions
Truancy Officers should be replaced with School Resource Officers (MPD). An efficient attendance tracking system should be established to immediately notify parents of absences. 7
Enforce “curfews” in which students can’t be “on the streets” during school hours. Place chronic truants in a boarding school. Increase the number of MPD truancy officers. There is now only one truancy officer per police district. Establish a taskforce headed by DME that would include the heads of the MPD, DCPS, the District of Columbia Hospital Association, the Department of Human Services, the public school board, and the charter board to streamline reporting of truants, including the immediate dispatch of MPD officers who has the ability to access school information systems. Establish penalties for parents when they fail to get their child to school -- reduce public assistance benefits or remove student from the home. Establish a cadre of volunteers, mostly senior citizens, that could make home visits on the very first day that a student is absent from school without parental consent. Require parents to sign consent forms on the first day of school that would allow someone to come to their place of employment in order to notify them of their child’s absence from school that day. Determine why an individual student is truant. For example, gay and lesbian students may miss class because they are being bullied. Organize against a culture of rampant and open drug use. In some neighborhoods children are exposed to drug paraphernalia when they go into a store to get food after school, and in such stores, they can purchase rolling papers and walk right out onto the street and use drugs. Increase extracurricular activities to make students excited about school.
Community organization testimony Ronald Moten and Keith Johnson, Peaceoholics, Inc., attributed high rates of truancy and drop out to students’ disenfranchisement from neighborhood schools and neighborhood conflicts between feuding crews. They recommended mediation with both sides and the use of conflict resolution. Molten said that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth population is increasingly involved in violent incidents and stressed the importance of victims issues being addressed no matter what the victims’ characteristics. Johnson said that some students are not getting adequate food at home and that school may be the only place a child is fed. He also stated that 8
violence in schools plays a big part in truancy. Johnson spoke against punishing the parents of students and said these families need access to social workers to help improve their home situation. Richard Flintrop, Director of Policy and Planning at the Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council (“HFTC”) testified on behalf of HFTC and the six collaboratives. He stated that habitual truancy leads to higher dropout rates. He said that schools in some neighborhoods have graduation rates that are less than 50 percent, and that 36 percent of the District’s adults are functionally illiterate. This results in citizens unprepared to enter the workforce and become productive, self-sufficient members of the community. He cited the strong correlation between school attendance and youth crime and violence. He said that the collaboratives have been a solution, working with families plagued by chronic truancy, and that families facing educational neglect are already referred to them under their contracts with Child and Family Services Agency (“CFSA“). The collaboratives have tested two models of intervention, one involving the informal participation of a judge from the Family Court and one with similar services but without court involvement. Mr. Flintrop testified that in his experience, familycentered services can significantly reduce truancy and improve school performance. Flintrop stated that bringing families into the CFSA system should be a last resort due to the long term negative consequences of having a parent’s name placed on the Child Protection Registry. Flintrop supported the Families Together Amendment Act passed under the leadership of Councilmember Wells, which mandated a differential response system be implemented by CFSA, asking for a lower threshold for educational neglect in tandem with the differential response system. He said that differential response has shown to reduce the need for traditional CFSA investigations, increase access to services for families, and significantly increase child safety and lower the rate of subsequent allegations of abuse and neglect. Flintrop states that funding for community-based services for truancy should be the responsibility of the school system and not CFSA. Daniel del Pielago, an education organizer with Empower DC, River Terrace ES, said he the city should work to preserve neighborhood schools. Using the example of the proposed closing of River Terrace ES, he said there safety issues that surround school closures – greater distances to travel on rough roads would increase the likelihood that the student will become truant. Further, sending children from one neighborhood to school in another can exacerbate the rivalries that exist between some neighborhoods in the District. Sinkyu Culver, a representative of River Terrace Parent Teacher Association, expressed concern about school safety and truancy when routes to and from school are increased. He discussed the issue of bussing students, but said that this would 9
increase traffic congestion and increase the amount of time that students are not sufficiently supervised. Culver said that the Council should investigate emotional intelligence and how this field can be used to teach students how to communicate effectively. This may reduce the instances of fighting. Further, he said there is a need to coordinate the efforts of the various organizations groups offering ideas of how to solve our educational problems. Susan Inman, staff attorney for Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc., testified on the importance of properly handling student discipline issues. Inman said that schools often rely on out-of-school suspension and expulsion to remove students from the academic setting. Rather than correcting student behavior, this can exacerbate the problem, in addition to punishing students who may be suffering from disabilities that are often undiagnosed and untreated. Inman said D.C. municipal regulations are designed to protect students from DCPS actions that would remove students from school without considering alternatives and affording students due process. She stated that there is currently no mechanism to hold schools accountable for ignoring or misapplying the regulations, so it is not uncommon for her organization to become involved when schools violate the regulations. Ms. Inman went on to explain that in charter schools the situation is often worse, as these schools develop their own policies pertaining to school discipline that are often vague and unfair. Inman suggests that the Council look to New York City as a model, as New York has a process by which parents can report on disciplinary practices of the school. Additionally, in 2010 the New York City Council passed the Student Safety Act which required the NYC Department of Education and NY Police Department to accurately report all school-based disciplinary actions and arrests disaggregated by race, gender, grade level, age, and whether the student receives special education or English as a Second Language services. Inman also testified that the Council should pass legislation to create an interagency initiative charged with providing a behavioral support structure across the D.C. public school system. She suggested that this program could incorporate trained behavioral support specialists in each school. Ms. Inman said that the specialists would build relationships with students by implementing behavioral supports and developing alternative disciplinary responses. Ms. Inman stated that a similar interagency support structure exists in Massachusetts. Inman recommended that the Council form a volunteer task force comprised of representative members of each community group affected by the overuse of school suspensions and expulsions. This task force could be comprised by District leaders, 10
students, teachers, administrators, parents, and advocates. Cathy Reilly, Director of Senior High Alliance of Principals, Parents, and Educators noted the loss of two young students, one gunned down on her front porch, and another found in a dumpster, and said that the District is not keeping our neighborhoods safe for children. Reilly said schools are trying to comply with truancy policies, but are overwhelmed with the volume of instances and suffer from a limited number of resources. She voiced concern at the threat of reducing school budgets even more, and the impact that would have on their ability to accomplish what needs to be done. Reilly said that searches and metal detectors alienate students by treating them as if they were a risk themselves. Trayon White, the Executive Director of Helping Inner City Kids Succeed Inc,, said that the schools are in a state of emergency and that the number one reason kids are truant or dropping out is because of safety concerns. Many of the experienced teachers were recently fired, with less experienced and less qualified teachers replacing them. Further, the schools lack adequate resources to help kids go on to college. Judith Sandalow, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center said that truancy is a symptom of a bigger problem and that poverty, unmet special education needs, and substance abuse problems and other problems at home, and difficulty in school, if unaddressed, can lead to truancy. She stressed the need to address these bigger problems in the family. It is critical to intervene early in cases of truancy and to locate funds for the differential response system created by the Families Together Amendment Act of 2010. Sandalow emphasized the need for an improved mental health services system, and that currently the Department of Mental Health (DMH) under serves families. DMH has a shortage of providers, resulting in the failure of many children obtaining important treatment. This shortage can impair the child’s health and can lead to school absences. She suggested that families should have access to additional services, including functional family therapy intervention, parent-child interaction therapy, multi-systemic therapy, and parenting classes. She also stated that the District should offer school-based mental health services, as this would be the easiest way to reach students in need of such services. Sandalow said that the Families Together Amendment Act has the power to greatly reduce truancy because it allows a differential response mechanism to be used where there is no immediate physical danger to the child and would permit CFSA to respond more effectively to thousands of child protection hotline calls each year by providing services to families at low or moderate risk rather than investigating them. She stated 11
that the cost of the differential response system would be $775,000 over a 4-year period, and that the system would save money in the District overall in the areas of foster care and judicial resources. Sandalow also testified that school reform is needed, and that some reform has already begun. She mentioned the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (“OSSE“) regulations on Compulsory Education and School Attendance. These regulations bind all public schools in the District and require each local education agency (“LEA“) to develop procedures for monitoring, reporting, addressing and evaluating attendance and absences within the school. The regulations also implement a procedure that requires personal contact with a parent or guardian of a student each time a student has the equivalent of one day of unexcused absence. Sandalow concluded with a suggestion that the Council consider strengthening DMH so that accessible, high quality evidenced-based mental health programs are provided to families. She also suggested the full implementation of the differential response system permitted by the Families Together Amendment Act and that OSSE ensures District schools have attendance policies, and not “push-out” policies such as suspension or punishment for truancy. Ms. Sandalow finally suggested that District schools implement a behavior intervention model proven to reduce classroom discipline problems. Kim Harrison, Executive Director of Working in the Spirit of Excellence, Inc. testified to the need for community involvement to resolve the issue of truancy. She said that there are many reasons for truancy issues that our schools are facing, and it is going to require working with the community to solve these problems. Harrison said a service plan, such as a wraparound service model, is needed. She said that teachers are interested in working out in the community more, including home visits. Harrison said that there has been a rise in teen pregnancy, and that when she performs home visits, it is not uncommon to find a teen mother that is having difficulty managing motherhood and her role as a student. Neil Irvin, Executive Director of Men Can Stop Rape (“MCSR“), testified about his work with young men in providing programs that address violence prevention and healthy alternatives to masculinity. Mr. Irvin spoke about MCSR’s mission to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially violence against women. He stated that according to the White House, 7000 students drop out of school each day. Mr. Irvin stated that participants in his organization’s “Men of Strength” program experience significant changes in their knowledge, beliefs, intentions and behaviors and as a result improved attendance and academic performance while reducing overall suspensions, expulsions and critical incidents. Andrew Barnett, Executive Director of Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (“SMYAL“) testified for the need of more robust anti-harassment policies in 12
all DC schools. Barnett stated that SMYAL is the only organization in the DC area solely dedicated to supporting the community’s LGBTQ youth. He said that he applauds the Committee’s efforts and attention to include the LGBTQ youth in their plans to combat truancy and school safety. Mr. Barnett also said that research supports that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by school safety issues like bullying, harassment and violence. Barnett said there is a need to promote a positive classroom environment through diversity training for faculty and staff. He said that District students are currently protected from harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation through the DC Human Rights Code as well as anti-harassment and anti-sexual harassment policies under the DCPS School Discipline Policy. He urged the Committee to consider instituting stricter anti-bullying policies, such as the ones proposed in the Harassment and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2010. Barnett said that stronger anti-bullying policies would include provisions that enumerate protected classes of students, provide procedural outlines for reporting and investigating incidents of harassment, allow for anonymous reporting, require publication of the policies, prohibit retaliation and false accusations, and provide a range of consequences for confirmed students. Barnett urged the committee to ensure support of LGBTQ programs. During the question and answer period, Barnett noted that SMYL has a Gay-Straight Alliance on Capitol Hill available to all students in the District. He stated that GayStraight Alliances are student-led organizations, and that students must have an environment where they feel safe in order to form such an organization. Councilmember Alexander discussed the issue of LGBTQ youth engaging in prostitution as a survival mechanism, especially in teens who have run away from home or have dropped out of school. Mr. Barnett said that young people who engage in sex for survival lack job readiness due to lack of education, which is why addressing school safety and truancy in relation to the LGBTQ community is so important. Brian Watson, Director of Programs at Transgender Health Empowerment (“T.H.E.”) testified regarding the need for protection of gender non-conforming youth in District schools. Mr. Watson’s program serves adults who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (“GLBT“) living with HIV/AIDS as well as LGBTQ youth. Mr. Watson testified that T.H.E. has identified a recurring issue among LGBTQ youth, which is dropping out attributed to verbal or physical harassment due to one’s sexual orientation or gender expression. Mr. Watson stated that this harassment reportedly comes from both students as well as faculty. Watson said that it is hard to see the impact of the anti-bullying legislation because 13
data collection is not always accurate. Watson noted that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness, substance abuse, and lack of employment opportunities caused by lack of education. He stated that even at the elementary and middle school levels, students are victimized by homophobic acts even before they have any awareness of their own sexual orientation. He said that schools can therefore identify youth who are likely targets of homophobia and thus foster a climate safe for all youth. Watson testified that school faculty should also be aware of LGBTQ students and recognize that they are at a greater risk of missing or dropping out of school. He stated that school faculty could be better trained in LGBTQ issues and accommodate student-led Gay-Straight Alliances or similar student clubs on campus. Mr. Watson stated that most of all, all individuals can assist LGBTQ students by demonstrating they are an ally and will not tolerate acts of cruelty, bullying or harassment. During the question and answer period, Councilmember Alexander asked Watson about best practices regarding LGBTQ related issues and how all schools can implement such practices. Watson answered that acknowledging LGBTQ youth through student clubs is a good first step to accommodating LGBTQ needs in the schools. He said that schools like Luke C. Moore Academy have an LGBT group led by a faculty advisor available for students Chairperson Biddle asked Watson to comment on his observations of LGBTQ-related bullying at the elementary school level. Watson answered that at this time, not much is known about gender orientation issues at elementary school level in the District. He mentioned that LGBTQ youth often start to identify or question their orientation at the elementary school level, however. The Chairperson stated that often times, young children become bullies by using language that they may have heard in the home or in the community, and that these children do not know the meaning or inappropriateness of the words they are using. Chairperson Biddle also said that for this reason, policies must be clear in defining bullying and the consequences of bullying words and behavior. The Chairperson also said that schools should set curriculum that addresses the unacceptability of such actions. Chairperson Biddle stated that such standards are essential not only for the health and wellbeing of the students, but also so that students are prepared for a diverse and progressive community. Candace Gingrich-Jones, Associate Director for Youth and Campus Outreach at the Human Rights Campaign testified regarding the need for a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students, including GLBT youth. Gingrich-Jones said that the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (“GLSEN“) conducts a National School Climate Survey every two years to examine the experiences of GLBT students 14
in school. She testified that the study reflects that a student will often skip classes or entire days just to avoid a hostile school environment. She said that the study shows that students who are harassed have lower grade point averages and are more likely to forgo post-secondary education. Gingrich-Jones said that according to the GLSEN survey, nearly 85 percent of the students say they were harassed at school. She said that the harassment and assault is magnified by school staff who rarely intervene on behalf of GLBT students. She said that two-thirds of students assaulted did not report the incident because they believed no action would be taken and one-third of the students who did report incidents said that school staff did nothing in response. Gingrich-Jones stated that while the District currently has a strong anti-bullying and harassment law, more can be done to protect all students. She said that inclusion of a GLBT curriculum has shown to improve all students’ health, safety and performance. She also stated that the presence of openly GLBT faculty sends a strong message of inclusion. Ms. Gingrich-Jones said having a Gay-Straight Alliance in schools helps to acknowledge GLBT students and their needs. Colleen Gallopin, Director of Training and Technical Assistance for Break the Cycle testified regarding domestic and dating violence among students and its impact on school safety and truancy. She said that Break the Cycle provides prevention education, free legal services, advocacy and support to young people between the ages of 12 and 24 who are experiencing dating violence. She also stated that Break the Cycle provides trainings for community-based organizations and school personnel. Gallopin said that one recent survey found that 32 percent of teens reported experiencing physical or psychological abuse and that the number of high school students who experience dating violence in the District is one of the highest in the country. She said that the District also ranks among the highest in the country in percentage of high school students who experience forcible rape. She said that around 43 percent of teen dating violence incidents were reported to have taken place on campus. Gallopin said that teen victims of dating violence report higher rates of truancy, more negative contact with their teachers and increased conflict with other students. She said that victims are also more likely to bring a weapon to school. Gallopin stated that teen victims are also impacted by truancy, as these victims often are unable to attend school out of fear or to seek medical treatment. She also said that teens may wish to wait to return to school until visible signs of injury fade to avoid questions about the injury or embarrassment. Gallopin testified that teens in abusive relationships may avoid school for safety reasons, as these students may be in a 15
situation where they are forced to see their abusive dating partner every day. During the question and answer period, Chairperson Biddle asked Ms. Gallopin if Break the Cycle has worked with charter schools as well as public schools. Ms. Gallopin stated that her organization has worked individually with charter schools, but not with the PCSB. Chairperson Biddle noted that charter school students often do not receive the same sort of programs as DCPS students and suggested the involvement of the Deputy Mayor for Education to ensure that best practices throughout the District and DCPS are reaching the charter schools as well. Ashley Johnson, founder and Executive Director of The Literacy Lab testified for the purpose of addressing truancy among homeless students. Johnson said that homeless students have one of the highest truancy rates of any group of students. She said that according to a 2001 study, 45 percent of homeless students do not attend school regularly, and 12 percent of homeless students are not enrolled in school at all. Johnson said that her organization provides reading instruction to homeless students residing at the DC General Family Emergency Shelter, and that student working with her program for 45 hours make an average one and a half grade levels of growth in their reading. The Literacy Lab also doubles the amount of reading instruction a student receives and also provides each student with another adult to follow up with them about their schoolwork, attendance and other school activities. Johnson stated The Literacy Lab was recently notified their funding has run out and the only way to save the program is with $8,500 of funding per month. Ms. Johnson asked the Council for help in locating funds for the program. During the question and answer period, Chairperson Biddle acknowledged that students often stop attending school because they struggle due to not receiving help at home. He also said that the services of The Literacy Lab are important for families struggling with problems of homelessness or poverty, who, because of larger family problems may not be able to prioritize schoolwork. Kim Harrison, Ward 8 resident and member of Anacostia High School’s school restructuring team testified regarding the need to address student “lock out”, whereby students who do not arrive on time to school are blocked from entering he school building. She said that tardy students are also facing a variety of issues that attribute to their truancy, like transportation, accessibility to clean clothes or even a fear of walking through a particular neighborhood during a certain time of day. She said that students who are barred from entering the school building due to tardiness are being deprived of an education and that this problem should be addressed. Faith Wheeler, President of Safe Takoma testified regarding school violence and its impact on truancy. She said that regardless of the quality of teachers in the 16
classroom, schools cannot be successful when fights break out in the classroom or when truancy rates are high. She said that DCPS has three measures for dealing with students who fight: suspension, expulsion or arrest. Ms. Wheeler said that the student is then out of the classroom, and for that child, learning is disrupted. She questioned if these measures are actually effective or if they even teach a lesson to the disruptive students. Wheeler stated that Safe Takoma recently completed its Community Conference, which addressed fights and arguments among high school students on school grounds. She said that the Community Conference brings together two or more young people who are involved in a conflict, along with their parents and a school representative. She said that the purpose of the Community Conference is to understand the whole situation, to hear how everyone has been affected by what happened, and to create a written contract that will address the damage and hold a student accountable for preventing future harm. During the question and answer period, Chairperson Biddle asked Ms. Wheeler how the Takoma Park program could be replicated through the city. Ms. Wheeler said that training facilitators to start other programs throughout the city would be key, but that would be a slow process. German Vigil, Community Capacity Building Director at Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative testified regarding the importance of helping families stay connected and strong through family support services. The Collaborative provides assistance to families in the Columbia Heights and Shaw neighborhoods in Wards 1 and 2 as well as Spanish-speaking families within the District. Vigil said that chronic truancy and related issues are principal predictors of potential gang or crew involvement. Vigil stated that families facing educational neglect allegations are referred to his organization under contract with CFSA. He offered an example of a model of intervention tested by his organization. He said that one model, referred to as the Byer model involved the informal participation of a judge from the Family Court who is paired with an individual school and then identifies a cohort of youth who are not attending school regularly, and recruits their parents to participate in the program as an alternative to truancy court. Mr. Vigil indicated that the program that sponsored the Byer model lost funding in 2008 and is no longer implemented in the schools. Mr. Vigil stated that truancy among young children is often a reflection of poor parenting skills or the stressors that low income single parent households face. He said that family centered services like collaborative significantly reduce truancy and improve school performance. Mr. Vigil said that the defunct Byer model came out of the belief that truancy arises out of conditions in the family and that positive reinforcement and empowerment yields more effective results than punishment. 17
Vigil testified that the Byer model had four elements which were crucial to the intervention’s success, including full support and partnership of schools, courts, MPD, parents and community-based partners; family group conferences allowing the youth and family to identify barriers that relate to school attendance and academic achievement; parent teacher meetings; and meetings with judges. Mr. Vigil stated that his organization supports the educational neglect legislation passed last year, but believes that it needs to be implemented in tandem with the differential response process. He expressed that involvement of the court system should be a last resort. During the question and answer period, Chairperson Biddle acknowledged the importance of collaboratives and locating funding to implement the differential response system included in the educational neglect bill School employees and administrators Terry Goings, Parent/Outreach Coordinator at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School, said that parents need to be held accountable for their child and that the community needs to start examining the conditions in the home. He stated that parents should come to the school to check on the students a couple of times per week. He recently sent out 100 voicemails notifying parents that their children were not in school, and he did not receive a single call back from a parent. He said there should be mandatory parenting classes for parents of truant students. He recommended that loitering laws be reevaluated because youths who are no longer students at Coolidge are creating a great safety concern for the current students attending school. Mr. Goings suggested that. He also testified that he is supportive of suspending students who are disruptive to the school’s learning environment. Goings also said that many of the children now in high school were born during the District’s crack epidemic and that many of their parents have been incarcerated, addicted or struggling as a single parent, and now these students need to be prepared to enter society. Steven Liggon, Attendance Counselor and Intervention Specialist at Luke C. Moore Academy, outlined the current protocol that the schools and attendance counselor should be following. On the first day a student is absent, a phone call should be made to the parent; at three days, a letter should go to the household from the teacher; at ten days the child should fail the class; and at 15 days a report should be made to CFSA. Mr. Liggon stated that if a child misses 25 consecutive days, they can be removed from the roster. Mr. Liggon suggested that it is important to hold teachers, attendance counselors, 18
public schools, and city government accountable in this process. Tiffany Worthy, ninth grade English teacher at Spingarn Senior High, said that her best efforts to lead a successful classroom are continually undermined by the high rate of truancy and absenteeism, which cripples student academic achievement. Worthy publicly tracks individual student attendance on a bulletin board in her classroom. She cited statistics that over the past three weeks, only six of 62 students have attended class every day. Worthy also stated the students have accumulated a combined total of 259 absences over that same period and that there is no doubt that truancy has hindered her students’ academic achievement. Sarah Lehar teaches Principles of U.S. Government and D.C. History at Anacostia Senior High School. She said that while she had amazing students in her classroom, there are far too many empty desks in her classroom, and therefore too many empty caps and gowns, because students are not making it to class. She does not believe that the procedure for truancy is implemented properly. She further recommended that the school needs to be proactive not reactive, and problem-solving rather than punitive. She said that school security personnel have been, in her experience, been ineffective and inattentive and that school must be made more effective security. She also would like to see principals having a hand in selecting who is hired to school security. Lehar said that her students have safety concerns and do not feel safe at school, or on field trips that utilized public transportation because some students feel that they will be attacked at the Metro. She stated that students need to feel safe in order for them to be expected to attend school. This will require addressing the root issues, and it must be a community effort. Lehar said that frequently students are absent because they are home taking care of their own children. David Tanzey, a teacher at Dunbar Senior High School, testified on his first hand experience over the last two years there. With another teacher, he runs the Gentlemen of Dunbar, a program that is trying to help redefine masculinity for the male youths. Mr. Tanzey stated that life lessons only get communicated through relationships. Young people who lack other mentors seek acceptance from their crew. He stated that he supports schools teaching a life skills curriculum. He also recommended instituting a program where upperclassmen mentor underclassmen. He feels the lack of leadership and relationships with students needs to be rectified. Rahman Branch, Principal of Ballou High School, said that his school has seen much improvement and success lately. Branch stated that the schools and principals need to have financial resources available to provide the students with the teachers and learning environment that is needed. The help needs to come from the DC government and the Council. 19
Brian Williams, Dean of Students at Ballou High School, said that he has witnessed a high level of violence in his tenure, but has also seen engaged learners who are performing beyond what society is expecting of them. Mr. Williams said he is trying to increase the numbers of minority students who are entering the fields of science, health, and technology. Williams suggested that students follow the example of their leaders, so schools need to have dynamic teachers. . Executive Comment Michael Taborn, Chief of Police for Metro Transit Police Department (“MTPD“) testified regarding criminal activity experienced over the last several years within the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Chief Taborn stated that out of the 2012 arrests made by the Metro Transit police in 2010, 507 were youth arrests. During that year, there were 136 aggravated assaults, 90 of the assaults on bus operators were carried out by youths. Chief Taborn also stated that youth crimes typically consist of larceny and robbery of electronic devices. He testified that 20,000 students in the District travel to school daily on Metro, and a majority of students are great transit patrons. He stated that recent trends however, have shown that some students have become increasingly aggressive and violent while using the transit system. Chief Taborn said that due to decreasing enrollment over the last five years, the District has closed some of its public schools, requiring more students to travel outside of their neighborhoods to attend school. Also, students travel out of their neighborhoods to attend parochial, private, and charter schools. Chief Taborn testified that reconfiguration of the school system has led to students crossing transit lines when traveling to school, creating increased opportunities for rival schools and neighborhood crews to mix. The Chief stated that these increased opportunities often lead to increased youth disorder and criminal behavior. Chief Taborn testified regarding the Metrorail stations that have been affected by youth disorder. He stated that the transfer points Metro Center, Gallery Place, and L’Enfant Plaza are a particular challenge for MTPD because these stations bring so many people together at once. He also stated that the stations that experience a large number of youth influx are Brookland, Fort Totten, Van Ness, Minnesota Avenue, Deanwood, Stadium Armory, Anacostia, and Shaw. Chief Taborn testified that each day at 1pm, MTPD participates in a conference call with MPD to share information concerning disputes or issues between local neighborhood groups and crews. He stated that the conference call also addresses the morning commute and any incidents that may trigger retaliation by groups in the afternoon. 20
Chief Taborn testified that MTPD has worked with agencies, WKYS radio station and schools across the District to implement “Project Respect”, a program that discourages students from being loud, boisterous and using profanity on trains and buses. Also, he stated that MTPD has increased the number of plain clothes officers that ride Metrobus during school release hours. He said that MTPD has suggested staggered school departure times to DCPS to reduce the concentration of students using Metro at a particular time. Chief Taborn also stated that MTPD has a program called “Safe Passages”, which allows special bus trips to and from school for students experiencing problems due to neighborhood disputes. He said that three buses under this program were deployed to Anacostia High School. He also stated that MTPD uses a system called METROSTAT, which is a new initiative to combat criminal activity within the Metro system. The Chief stated that this process involves using real time data and statistical information to identify crime trends. Chief Taborn testified that truancy is especially a burden on MTPD, since so many youth congregate at certain Metro stations for long periods of time. He stated that since the District does not have an anti-loitering law, MTPD can only take action when the group impedes the egress or ingress of the stations or the ability for others to use the sidewalks. Chief Taborn explained what happens to students who are taken into custody by MTPD for truancy, stating that a truant student in custody is taken to the Truancy Hall at Mount Olivet for processing. If the student will not furnish the phone number of his or her parents or guardian or if the number is not in the system, the student is then turned over to MPD. Chairperson Biddle remarked that problems with transit safety is not a new phenomenon. He stated that low income communities especially rely on Metro to travel to and from school and most have no other options for travel. The Chairperson shared the story of his experience observing transit patrons at the Anacostia Metro and noted that 75 percent of the riders were school-age children. Chairperson Biddle said since the District is not a big city by area and students are identifiable, there is no excuse for those responsible for student safety to avoid accountability. The Chairperson also stated that rules for every student using Metro need to be established, as well as clear consequences for breaking rules. Chairperson Biddle asked Chief Taborn which agency will be responsible for ensuring safety when the students are in the Metro system. Chief Taborn responded that the responsibility for student safety rests with DCPS, CFSA, MPD and MTPD. He said that MTPD wants to work in partnership with the other agencies. Chief Taborn stated that during school hours at high traffic stations 21
like Gallery Place, he would like to see an MPD officer patrolling the station. Chairperson Biddle stated that the issue of delegating responsibility could be resolved by getting DCPS, MPD and MTPD together at one time to decide which agency will handle which aspect of student safety. The Chairperson emphasized the importance of clarity in each agency’s role for the purpose of accountability. He stated that DCPS cannot always account for each student’s safety while in the Metro system and also noted that MPD is responsible for the entire city’s safety. The Chairperson then expressed that since MTPD has jurisdiction over the transit system, it is logical that truancy issues that arise in conjunction with the Metro system should be MTPD’s responsibility. Chief Taborn stated that MTPD covers 1,500 square miles of jurisdiction with only 450 officers. He expressed the need for a commitment from MPD to jointly patrol the high traffic Metro stations. Chairperson Biddle reiterated the need for DCPS, MPD and MTPD to convene in order to delegate who will be accountable for student safety at specified times. Chairperson Biddle expressed that he understood the resource issue, but stated that a much more costly resource is lost time and damage to the District’s young people. He said that the cost of not acting on the problem of truancy is catastrophic, and that resources to put solutions in play must be located. Chairperson Biddle emphasized that blame needs to stop, and that everyone must be accountable to fix the problem now. Josephine Baker, Executive Director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board (“PCSB“) testified regarding the PCSB’s truancy policies, stating that students cannot be the recipients of a quality education if they do not feel safe, are not engaged in school, and do not attend school regularly. Baker testified that all charter schools are held accountable for implementing the attendance and truancy standards established by PCSB. She said that charter schools are their own LEA, and must maintain an attendance rate at or above 85 percent and a truancy rate at or below 20 percent quarterly. Baker testified that schools that do not maintain these rates are subject to board action. She then explained the board actions taken by PCSB in response to charter schools that fall below the standard. Baker said that in 2010, PCSB issued about 20 board actions for truancy and attendance and that all of the actions have been cleared. She said PCSB has not issued any board actions in the first quarter of the current school year because PCSB has decided to give schools an opportunity to clear up any data reporting problems schools may have had. She said that during the second quarter, board actions were taken for only four schools. 22
Baker also testified that each LEA develops and executes its own discipline policy. She noted the importance of gauging school climate and working with MPD to identify negative school climate trends and raise questions with school leaders. Finally, Baker stated that PCSB encourages school administrators to continue to implement their truancy and attendance policies in school. During the question and answer period, Councilmember Barry asked Baker if the Board had a baseline for disciplining truancy among the charter schools. Baker answered that each charter school as its own LEA has their own discipline policy and that the autonomy of the schools does not allow for PCSB to set such a standard. Councilmember Barry stated that he disagreed with this policy, since charter schools receive taxpayer money. The Honorable Zoe Bush, Presiding Judge of the DC Superior Court’s Family Court testified regarding the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s Truancy Task Force (“Task Force“), of which she is co-chair. She stated that she has presided over Truancy Court for two years, and in that time, has understood that truancy is a predictor of potential delinquent activity, social isolation, and school suspension and expulsion. Judge Bush stated that the causes of truancy are multi-faceted and that a comprehensive strategy is required to ensure the District can reduce truancy and increase school attendance. She emphasized the importance of a common understanding among all citizens of the District about the impact of truancy so that root causes may be addressed. Judge Bush testified that the Task Force is comprised of education, human services, and criminal justice/law enforcement agencies and was formed to develop a truancy reduction strategy. She stated that at first, the task force focused on elementary school children and eventually expanded to include all students. The citywide multiagency approach of the Task Force helped reduce truancy by 41 percent in 2004. Judge Bush said that the Family Court fully supports the Special Committee on School Safety and Truancy because all efforts to combat truancy will help the District’s most vulnerable children and their families. During the question and answer period, Councilmember Alexander shared a story of a young woman who resides in a group home in Ward 7. She stated that this young woman has not attended school the entire year, and no person or agency has been held accountable for this. Councilmember Alexander expressed concern that such an oversight of children in the foster system might be occurring in the District. Councilmember Alexander said that she would like clarity regarding who will be accountable for ensuring this young woman and other children in the foster care 23
system receive the education to which they are entitled. Judge Bush replied that children in the foster care system are classified as Persons In Need of Services, or PINS. She explained that a person classified as PINS has been charged with a status offense, such as truancy, being ungovernable, or running away from home. She also stated that by the time a truant child is seen in Truancy Court, the child has already missed 25 days of school. Judge Bush said that after that many absences, intervention is difficult. Judge Bush responded that it is the court’s responsibility to ensure the student is in the appropriate educational setting and that their attendance in school is accounted for. She noted that CFSA is innovative in using limited resources to manage the foster care system and that CFSA puts many supports in place to help families reunify. Chairperson Biddle asked Judge Bush what the District can expect to gain from the Task Force. Judge Bush stated that the Task Force is comprised of representatives from MPD, the Office of the Attorney General, the Defense Bar, DMH, OSSE, DCPS, CFSA, the charter schools and the Deputy Mayor for Education. She said that the goal of the Task Force is to bring these agencies together in these times of fiscal constraint to ensure that the programs that are currently in place to address truancy are effective and that the programs are evidence-based. Judge Bush then explained the public will be well informed through a media campaign educating about truancy, the effects of truancy and why education is important. She noted that in any average penal system, the common denominator for incarcerated persons is a 3rd grade reading level, which reflects the consequences to truancy and a failing education system. Chairperson Biddle remarked that another group that would benefit from a media campaign on truancy would be the average citizen who observes a truant child not in school. The Chairperson commented on his own observations in Ward 7, seeing young people about the neighborhoods during a school day when they should be in school. He noted the importance of giving the public a way to engage by educating them on the consequences of truancy to the community and potentially offering a hotline to call to report truancy activity. Judge Bush agreed with the Chairperson that the community needs to be educated on truancy and said that she would take the suggestion of the Chairperson back to the Task Force. She stated that while District schools already track truancy, in her opinion, she sees the problem as not addressing truancy early enough. Judge Bush stated that collaboratives can help the families to address and resolve the reasons for truancy. Judge Bush remarked that the need to incorporate the collaboratives in the community to identify future truancy indicators at the first signs is of utmost 24
importance. She said that once behaviors are identified, support to the family can be provided to potentially avert truancy. The Judge said that students want to learn; often times, students and their families are overwhelmed with life and can be trapped in a cycle of generational poverty. She stated that the “big picture” solution to truancy is addressing the larger familial issues through intervention and support of families, whether through food, clothing, or mental health support services. Councilmember Alexander asked Judge Bush to explain PINS and asked if the child classified as PINS remains within the CFSA system. The Judge answered that PINS can be the same population as CFSA children, but that PINS is not related to CFSA. Judge Bush clarified that CFSA handles neglect cases, whereas PINS cases are persons who are identified as needing support services. Councilmember Alexander expressed great concern for the foster care system, especially children within that system who run away from the group home. She stated that in a group home setting it does not seem as if the child receives the same type of supervision from CFSA as if the child was still in the familial home. Judge Bush replied that when the child has been removed from the familial home for the child’s safety and placed in a group home, the responsibility for placing the child in the appropriate, safe setting falls with the judge. The Judge said that the information regarding what is best for the child is in part relayed from CFSA social workers. Councilmember Alexander then asked Judge Bush what would happen if a judge found that a child placed in a group home was not at school for the entire year, as in the case of the young woman residing in the Ward 7 group home. Judge Bush said that in such a case, the child may need extra resources because the child may be ungovernable due to a traumatic home life. The Judge said that there is no quick fix for such cases and that each case must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Judge Bush also indicated that she would personally follow up on the status of this particular young woman.
Testimony of the State Superintendent of Education, The Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools and the Chief of Police: Hosanna Mahaley, State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia testified regarding the Mayor’s interagency efforts to combat truancy. Superintendent Mahaley stated that chronic truancy is a predictor for dropping out, substance abuse and criminal activity. She said that the damage from truancy is felt throughout the entire community. Superintendent Mahaley said that last year, 12,000 public school students were truant for 15 days or more. She stated that in November 2009, OSSE revised its attendance and compulsory education rules to require DCPS and charter schools to develop a 25
comprehensive truancy protocol that includes procedures to track and monitor school attendance, notify families, and trigger agency intervention. The Superintendent said that Mayor Gray’s administration is committed to addressing truancy across agencies. She testified that DCPS and charter schools have also committed to making attendance a major priority by taking action the first day a student is truant. She also said that MPD has designated a team of 14 officers to pick up, investigate and return students to school. She also mentioned the reinstituted Truancy Task Force and said that the Task Force is a tool for continuing interagency coordination, creative problem solving, and outreach to the community. During the question and answer period, Councilmember Alexander asked DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson how DCPS defines truancy, and expressed a concern that a child can come to school for the last portion of the school day and still only be counted as tardy. Chancellor Henderson answered that a student who is not in school for 60 percent of the school day without a valid excuse is counted truant. Councilmember Alexander also asked for Chancellor Henderson’s thoughts on instituting a boarding school in the District for students who require a more controlled environment in order to learn. The Chancellor stated that she is not sure if a boarding school is being considered, but that the District is examining best practices throughout the country and is open to all solutions. Councilmember Alexander asked MPD Chief Cathy Lanier to explain the efforts of MPD’s truancy division. Chief Lanier stated truant students are picked up by MPD truancy officers, the incident is documented, and the student is then transported back to school. The Chief said that if a student will not identify himself, where he attends school, or if the student is from outside the District, that student is taken to an interim truancy center at 801 Shepherd Street. Chief Lanier stated parents are then contacted to retrieve the student. Councilmember Alexander asked Chief Lanier what sort of interaction occurs between DCPS and MPD regarding students that are picked up for truancy. Chief Lanier answered that DCPS and MPD conduct daily conference calls regarding school-related issues. The Chief also stated that MPD has developed a database that captures which students are truant and the frequency of the student’s truancy. Councilmember Alexander asked Chief Lanier what sort of truancy statistics are kept. Chief Lanier answered that daily statistics are kept, and that such numbers are classified by patrol district so that MPD can increase efforts where needed. Councilmember Alexander asked Superintendent Mahaley what should be done to hold parents accountable. Superintendent Mahaley answered that families need support and services, and it is essential that services are available to offer. The 26
Superintendent stated that when the families do not respond to that however, court intervention should be considered, but only as a last resort. Chancellor Henderson stated that unfortunately, some parents of truant students are not equipped to be the best parents because they have not had the resources necessary. Chancellor Henderson emphasized the importance of engaging parents and assisting them to understand the importance of sending their child to school. The Chancellor stated standards need to be clear on what is expected of the community to get children to school. Chairperson Biddle asked Chancellor Henderson what she perceived to be the main cause of truancy. Chancellor Henderson answered that truancy causes can be divided into two groups: what is happening inside of school and what is occurring in the home. The Chancellor said that regarding the climate inside the school, students avoid school because they perceive school as not engaging, fun or relevant. The Chancellor also stated that schools can use sports, music, the arts, and career and technical pathways as a pathway to get a student in school. She stated that outside of the school, a student may have a safety concern to and from school or may be dealing with poverty or health issues that prevent school attendance. Chairperson Biddle agreed with the Chancellor regarding the importance of offering students an opportunity to be engaged in the school experience, whether through teams, clubs or other extracurricular activities. He said that regardless of their motivation for attending school, the initial battle is physically getting the child to school. The Chairperson also commented that the “outside of school” factors of poverty, safety and health issues need to be addressed so that a student can appropriately focus on school and not crises that may be plaguing the family, like housing or food. Chairperson Biddle discussed a bill he introduced, the School Transit Subsidy Amendment Act of 2011 which would no longer effectively charge children to learn by subsidizing a student’s total cost of traveling to and from school in the Metro system.
III. Research on Best Practices The Committee’s study on best practices 8 – programs, legislation and regulations in jurisdictions across the Nation that have decreased truancy and increased school completion – began with the research and assessment work conducted by the Department of Education (DOE), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the National Center for School Engagement (NCSE), the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N), the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, and others. Consistent in successful programs is a set of critical components: 9 • Collaboration among the school and its community, service agencies, law enforcement, family courts, health and mental health organizations – all groups that regulate truancy and work with families and students struggling with truancy. Family Involvement -- engaging parents/guardians as a natural course of events, not just when things are not going well. Comprehensive Approach -- focusing simultaneously on prevention and intervention. Use Incentives and Sanctions – ensuring meaningful sanctions for truant behavior and meaningful incentives for school attendance Develop a Supportive Context – ensuring the program is not fighting against system infrastructure or acting in isolation. Evaluate the Program – looking critically at what is or isn’t working and whether the program should continue
• • • • •
Programs identified by the Committee that could work in the District: The following models and examples that are on interest of the Committee because they are examples of prevention programs that are effective or appear promising in truancy prevention. They also have incorporated of the above components. Differential Response – State of Missouri In 1994 the Missouri Senate passed a bill which allowed Missouri’s Division of Family
Best practices are methods or processes that have proven themselves over time to accomplish given tasks. The idea is that with proper processes, checks and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered more effectively with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. In addition, a "best" practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. Best practice is used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.
Services to create a dual track differential response model where families are screened and assigned at intake of report for either the investigation or family assessment paths. By redesigning the ways in which Family Services can respond to screened-in reports alleging child maltreatment, the differential response approach creates more flexibility for agencies and their staff. Differential response has two pathways to serve families, an investigation pathway and a non-investigation pathway. The investigation pathway is restricted to those referrals either in which the child has been severely maltreated or in which it appears that there is imminent risk for further abuse. In general, cases in which there appears to be a potential for involvement of the judicial system, such as serious physical abuse or sexual abuse, are assigned to this pathway. The investigation pathway typically requires the collection of forensic evidence in order to substantiate the maltreatment allegation. Jurisdictions may also decide to screen other types of cases, such as those involving institutional abuse or children with certain disabilities, into the investigation pathway. The non-investigation pathway is usually identified for cases that have been initially classified as low or moderate risk. A key characteristic of the non-investigation pathway is that it focuses on engaging the family in an assessment process to determine what they need to provide for the children’s safety and well-being, and the provision of services to meet those needs. It usually does not include a formal decision as to whether the specific allegations were founded or not, and the family caregivers are not classified as perpetrators, since no maltreatment is substantiated. Two waves of evaluation were completed and various studies have been done on the outcomes and implications of Missouri’s dual track differential response system. On all accounts, this intervention has been successful as evaluations show that the safety of children and the well-being of families are better safeguarded in a system where response to families is immediate; worker’s attitude and approach yield non adversarial collaborative interactions; and local agencies are involved with the family and the community in a collaborative effort. Furthermore, Missouri also reports that by reducing the number of children in foster care and reentering the system, funds can be reallocated to support differential response initiatives and other front end reforms to strengthen families. Children and Family Research Center- University of Illinois School of Social Work: Differential Response Literature Review http://www.state.il.us/DCFS/docs/DRLitreview_11.21.09.pdf Overview of Differential Response Programs http://www.differentialresponseqic.org/assets/docs/qic-dr-lit-review-sept-09.pdf
Involvement Attorney General – Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles County has seen a reduction in truancy through a comprehensive plan that includes involvement of the Attorney General. Abolish Chronic Truancy (ACT) is a program that targets K-6th grade students and utilizes a series of progressively intrusive steps to hold children and parents/guardians accountable for truancy. The steps are as follows: (1) Letter is sent home to parents/guardians whose children have school attendance problems; (2) Parents/guardians and children are invited to a meeting with the deputy district attorney, also present are community based organizations and school personnel to provide parenting classes, counseling and other needed services; (3) Parents/guardians whose children continue to have attendance problems are invited to attend a School Attendance Review Team (SART); (4) Students who continue to have attendance problems are referred to School Attendance Review Board (SARB); and (5) if all of the above steps fail, a case will be filed against the parent/guardian and/or child. In 1993, out of 1379 families that received a letter (and remained at the same address), 83% improved from the letter, 15% improved from the SART, and 2% were referred to SARB. There were no court fillings. 1994 statistics reveal that of the 3252 families who received the letter, 88% improved from the letter, 11% improved from SART and less than 1% required court filings. There are 162 schools in 17 districts involved with the program in Los Angeles County. The ACT program has also been implemented in other counties both in and out of the state. http://www.schoolengagement.org/TruancypreventionRegistry/Admin/Resources/Resour ces/ModelTruancyPreventionPrograms.pdf http://da.lacounty.gov/pdf/act.pdf
School Policies -- reduction of suspensions – Baltimore, MD Baltimore formerly had a policy that allowed for the suspension of students who had been caught skipping school. The suspensions were forced absences of a school-created nature that didn’t count toward truancy numbers, but contributed to Baltimore’s high chronic absence rates: 34 percent of middle school students and 44 percent of high school students were missing at least 20 days of class. The same analysis found one in six elementary students chronically absent. In an effort to limit student absences, Baltimore targeted its high suspension rate, recognizing that sending children home just puts them further behind and makes them far more likely to drop out. The district formed a work group, co-chaired by the Mayor and Superintendent, and worked with advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and others to improve the disciplinary code. 30
Removing absences and truancy from the code as suspendable offenses and evaluating the number of young people removed from school for defiant behaviors such as acting out or talking back has dropped Baltimore’s aggregate suspensions from 23,000 to 9,000 in a two-year period. Baltimore’s approach to reducing out-of-school removals incorporates effective alternatives to suspension that do not force children out of school, including restorative justice and school-wide positive behavior support. These positive approaches provide mechanisms for teaching good behavior and pro-social attitudes and involve parents and students as part of the solution. Attendance data for the past three school years shows that chronic absence rates among Baltimore’s middle grades students have been cut in half, and that elementary and high school student’s attendance has modestly, but steadily, improved. http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/childrights/content/articles/111210truancy.html http://www.attendanceworks.org/what-works/baltimore/
Supportive Mentorship - Minneapolis, MN Developed by the University of Minnesota, and successfully implemented by several Dakota County schools, Check & Connect is a dropout prevention strategy that relies on close monitoring of school performance, as well as mentoring, case management, and other supports. The program has two main components: “Check” and “Connect.” The Check component is designed to continually assess student engagement through close monitoring of student performance and progress indicators. The Connect component involves program staff giving individualized attention to students, in partnership with school personnel, family members, and community service providers. Students enrolled in Check & Connect are assigned a mentor who regularly reviews their performance in the areas of attendance, behavior, or academic problems and intervenes when problems are identified. The person is a cross between a mentor, an advocate, and a service coordinator whose primary goal is to keep education a salient issue for disengaged students, as well as their teachers and family members. The monitor also advocates for students, coordinates services, provides ongoing feedback and encouragement, and emphasizes the importance of staying in school. Check & Connect is structured to maximize personal contact and opportunities to build trusting relationships. Student levels of engagement, including attendance, grades, and suspensions, are checked regularly and used to guide the mentors’ efforts to increase and maintain students’ connection with school. Check & Connect was found to have positive effects on staying in school and potentially 31
positive effects on progressing in school. It was found to have no discernible effects on completing school within four years of entering the program. http://checkandconnect.org/model/default.html
Comprehensive, Collaborative Approach – New York City, New York The Center for New York City Affairs released a report finding that one of every five students in kindergarten through fifth grades was chronically absent, missing 10 percent of the school days. This rate was even higher in the poorest neighborhoods. In response, the city Department of Education began working with elementary schools experiencing the highest levels of chronic absence. Schools began actively reaching out to parents of chronically absent students through letters and meetings aimed at informing them about the adverse impact of poor attendance and connecting them to community resources. The Education Department also created a new report that regularly monitors levels of chronic absence. In August of 2010, the Mayor’s office created an Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism & School Engagement and mandated that the heads of all youth serving city agencies serve as its members. The Task Force is charged with developing the first-ever multi-sector, comprehensive strategy to reduce chronic absenteeism at city schools. The Task Force launched its first set of initiatives as part of its Every Student Every Day campaign. These initiatives specifically target 25 pilot schools with above average levels of absenteeism. This is done by using data to identify early warning signals, creating new models to connect schools to local resources and services, and providing mentors for students who were chronically absent last year or missing too many days this year. The plan focuses largely on students in elementary and middle school because of the close link between absenteeism in those grades and school failure and drop out rates. While each of the 25 pilot schools are implementing programs unique to their students’ needs, each school is required to have several key components. These include Electronic Data dashboards to track attendance, behavior, and coursework and evaluate interventions. In addition, principal-led attendance meetings are held weekly to review data and discuss chronically absent students with school leadership and community based partners. Success mentors are assigned to work with students who are missing too much school. Regular contact with students and parents is maintained by utilizing letters and daily phone calls home. School wide attendance promotions, such as pep rallies, contests, and Student Success Summits are held at each school throughout the year. In addition, there is collaboration between the schools, health officials, and faith-based organizations. Fifteen homeless shelters have been selected for pilot programs to to address the academic needs of children there, and all NYC shelters now have Student 32
Homework Centers. Incentives for good attendance are offered by Starbucks, the NY Yankees, Old Navy, Office Depot and NY Skyride. The effort, which launched in the fall, has already shown progress at some schools. At the Task Force’s 10 elementary schools, chronic absenteeism was down by 24 percent over last year; at the Task Force’s eight middle schools, it was down by 16 percent. High school rates are proving more intractable, as is often the case. http://www.attendanceworks.org/what-works/new-york-city/ The New York City Council also passed the Student Safety Act in December, 2010, requiring the NYC Department of Education and NYC Police Department to accurately report, on a quarterly basis, all school-based disciplinary actions and arrests disaggregated by race, gender, grade level, age, and whether the student receives special education or English Language Learner services. Continued monitoring is important to measure the depth of the truancy problem and the success of any interventional programs, within a given school system. Further Information: http://www.schoolengagement.org/TruancypreventionRegistry/Admin/Resources/Resour ces/ModelTruancyPreventionPrograms.pdf
Additional resources National Center for School Engagement (NCSE)- Promoting attendance, attachment, and achievement. http://www.truancyprevention.org/ Attendance Works, established in January 2010, is the only national initiative specifically dedicated to reducing chronic absence in American schools. http://www.attendanceworks.org/what-works/ National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention http://www.promoteprevent.org/publications/prevention-briefs/truancy-prevention U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences- What Works Clearinghouse http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/reports/Topicarea.aspx?tid=06 (dropout prevention) American Bar Association – Search: Truancy http://search.americanbar.org/search?q=truancy&client=default_frontend&proxystyleshe et=default_frontend&site=default_collection&output=xml_no_dtd&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF8&ud=1 33
Truancy Prevention in Action – Best Practices and Model Truancy Programs, a report from the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network http://cle.osu.edu/familycivicengagement/documents/references-andguides/downloads/best-practices-and-model-truancy-programs.pdf
Recommendations for immediate action The Committee finds that the Families Together Amendment Act of 2010 (passed but awaiting funding) would address many of the needs identified by the witnesses, experts and administrators who contributed to the current report. The Act should be fully funded and implemented to put in place the differential response system that has worked well in other jurisdictions. While full funding for the differential response system is ideal, funding of a pilot program could begin implementation this time. The Committee recommends passage of the School Transit Subsidy Amendment Act of 2011 into law. Introduced by Chairperson Biddle and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Alexander, Cheh, Thomas, Bowser, M. Brown, and Barry as a response to numerous school administrators, teachers, parents, and students, the Committee supports full subsidy of student transportation. With 17 percent of District residents living below the poverty line, many families must choose essentials like food or electricity over Metro or bus fare required to get their children to school. Passage of this bill will ensure that families are no longer forced to choose between their basic needs and education. The Committee recommends passage of the South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011. The bill was introduced by Councilmembers Catania, Biddle, Wells and M. Brown and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Alexander, Cheh, Evans, and Graham. Passage of the bill will be a great victory for the children of the District, as well as a considerable step toward success in resolving the root causes of truancy. The bill will ensure that the District’s youngest citizens receive the behavioral health resources necessary to be successful in school and flourish as productive members of society. Undiagnosed and unaddressed behavioral health needs are a primary cause of truancy; the early intervention of such needs provided for in The bill will help prevent more serious, more costly issues that would certainly develop without such intervention. The Committee recommends the creation of a process within the Office of the Attorney General by which a truancy letter signed by the attorney general is sent to a student who is truant a specified number of days. Other jurisdictions have incorporated similar letters as part of a comprehensive truancy program, yielding the highest, most cost-effective results. The Committee recommends implementing the Minnesota Model’s use of the truancy letter and advocates sending out this truancy letter by the third day of consecutive truancy. The Committee recommends the Summer Youth Employment Program’s (“SYEP”) use of a differential pay system. Student participants in the SYEP have stated that they are often discouraged by participating in the program because they find themselves in 35
competition for limited slots or job placements with participants that have been suspended for disciplinary reasons or have missed a substantial portion of the school year. Additionally, parents of students in the SYEP have suggested that perhaps there should be academic and attendance requirements for participation in the SYEP. The Committee supports a differential pay system, whereby students with good GPAs and attendance records should be paid more than underperforming students. The Committee recommends increased vigilance on the Metro and an increase of MTPD officers at high traffic stations during the hours immediately prior to and after school release. The Committee recommends that by the start of the 2011-2012 school year, MPD, MTPD and DCPS have made efforts to convene and delegate which agency will be responsible for student safety and truancy at any given time. Such efforts by these agencies should be periodic and ongoing. The Committee advocates efforts to resolve the shortage of quality mental health professionals serving the District. The Committee also endorses full staffing of DMH’s finance department to maximize the District’s opportunity for federal Medicaid funds. The Committee advocates that all DC schools use discipline methods such as suspension and expulsion sparingly and as a last resort. The Committee recommends investigation of whether any public school is using a “lock out” policy, which forbids tardy students to enter the school premises for the entire school day and that public schools understand that such policies are not acceptable. The Committee recommends that all DC schools implement a behavior intervention model proven to reduce classroom discipline problems and improve attendance. The Committee suggests the designation of a faculty member in each school to make personal phone calls to parents or guardians within one class period when a child is absent as well as increasing time designated for teachers to conduct home visits, conferences with parents and make daily telephone calls to parents of absent students. The Committee fully advocates continuation and funding of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s Truancy Task Force and that MTPD be added to the Task Force as a stakeholder in truancy prevention effective immediately. The Committee suggests engaging District residents in the Truancy Task Force’s media campaign to educate the public on the effects of truancy. The Committee also recommends offering a Truancy Hotline so that the public can report suspected truant activity. Also recommended are efforts to increase the public’s involvement in the solution to truancy. The Committee advocates more robust policies protecting LGBTQ students and promoting a positive classroom environment through diversity training for faculty and staff. Also endorsed is training on LGBTQ related student issues for all school faculty and staff, including at the elementary school level. The Committee recommends collection of more accurate data on school bullying and harassment and anti-bullying 36
policies that are clearly posted within the schools and understood among the students and faculty. The Committee suggests schools make the process of reporting incidents of bullying and harassment clear, and that students know which adult within the school is designated to handle such incidents. The encouragement of openly GLBT faculty within schools to further foster an environment of acceptance is also supported. The Committee recommends efforts to implement a student-led, faculty supported Gay-Straight Alliance group in all schools. The Committee suggests the implementation of programs like Safe Takoma’s Community Conference throughout the city, to mediate student disputes in a formal manner that holds the students responsible for future behavior. The Committee recommends the institution of programs similar to the Byer model described by German Vigil in schools, consisting of assigning each school a judge who is able to identify a cohort of youth susceptible to truancy and recruiting parents to participate in truancy education programs as an alternative to truancy court. The Committee suggests an effort by schools to schedule high-interest and extracurricular classes during the first two periods of the school day, to encourage student attendance. The Committee advocates intervention across all grade levels, noting different causes of truancy at the elementary level versus high school level. The Committee advises programs at the elementary level be funded aggressively and given the same attention and importance as high school truancy prevention programs. The Committee recommends continued research and review of the: • Impact of New York City programs in regard to truancy, particularly the practices of parental notification on the day of an absence and utilizing a more efficient real-time attendance tracking system. Identification of effective retention policies for grade and middle school students who are not mastering grade level material. Implementation of a life skills curriculum, as well as offering remedial curriculum for students who need a more basic educational foundation. Delivery of extracurricular activities like sports, music and clubs and increasing activities for students, both in school and after school. Determination most effective combination of incentives and sanctions and how emphasize prevention and intervention, instead of judicial remedies. Means for holding a parent accountable for their child when the child is not attending 37
• • • • •
school, but through evaluation of the climate in the home. • Identification of how to effectively use a volunteer task force comprised of representative members of each community group affected by school suspensions and expulsions was given, possibly for home visits on the first day a child is absent from school. Study of effective use of sanctions such as reducing TANF payments, parenting workshops consent and accountability measures that demand parents to engage in their child’s academics, especially for TANF recipients. Study of effective balance of law enforcement officers, security guards, etc. in schools. Study of impact of daycare facilities in the high schools impacted by teenage parenting, as well as support services for homeless youth. Establish of LGBTQ support groups in each public school. Such support groups should be student-led organizations, with the sponsorship of supported faculty. Committee Action
• • •
The Committee met on April 18, 2010, to consider and approve an Interim Report and Recommendations on School Safety and Truancy. Chairperson Biddle moved for approval of the interim report with allowance for the Committee Staff to make technical and conforming changes to the report. Committee members voted as follows: Committee members voting in favor: Committee members voting against: Committee members absent: Committee members voting present: VIII. Attachments
Appendix A Current laws, regulations and rulings Existing DC Truancy Laws 38
District of Columbia Public Schools Truancy and Dropout Prevention Program Act of 1998 DC Code § 38-252 District of Columbia Public Schools shall offer a Truancy and Dropout Prevention Program for students who are enrolled in the District of Columbia Public Schools system. The programs should be implemented on a full-time basis, work with local schools and parents, and provide resources that will help reduce absences and unexcused absences, and reduce dropout and increase retention rates. The program shall develop a supportive relationship with the Metropolitan Police Department. The program shall be available for students who are enrolled in grades K-12 and for students who are enrolled in non-graded classes in elementary, middle or junior high, and high schools.
Truancy Centers Amendment Act of 2008 DC Code § 38-251. Authority of police over truant child. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education, after consultation with the District of Columbia Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, the Child and Family Services agency, and the Metropolitan Police Department, shall establish truancy centers in the District of Columbia for the delivery of truant public school and public charter school students by the Metropolitan Police Department. A law enforcement officer shall take to the truancy center in the ward where the student is found, any child who the law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe, based on the child's age and other factors, is truant from a public or public charter school on a day and during the hours when the public or public charter school is in session."
Criteria for Intake Rules Governing Juvenile Proceedings D.C. Code § 11-1101 Delinquency Cases. In determining whether the best interest of the respondent or the public require that a petition be filed, the intake unit shall consider the following factors: The Seriousness of the Alleged Act(s). The Respondent's Record of Prior Police and Court Contacts. Whether the Alleged Delinquent Act Was Committed Under Mitigating Circumstances or Other Conditions Rendering Judicial Action Inappropriate. Whether a Petition Has Been or Will Be Filed Against an Alleged Co-Respondent for Substantially Similar Acts. 39
Need of Supervision Cases. In determining whether the best interest of the respondent or the public require that a petition be filed, the intake unit shall consider the following factors: In habitual truancy cases, the mental and physical condition of the respondent, the number of alleged absences from school, the circumstances surrounding such absences, the efforts of the school or other community resources to remedy the situation, and whether or not judicial action appears appropriate and reasonably likely to remedy the situation. In cases of offenses committable only by children, the nature and seriousness of the alleged offense, the circumstances surrounding the offense, and whether or not judicial action appears appropriate and reasonably likely to help. In cases of habitual disobedience and ungovernability, the specific acts of disobedience charged, the circumstances surrounding such acts, the reasonableness of the parental commands allegedly violated, the reasonableness of the respondent's actions in the light of prevailing community standards, whether or not there are nonjudicial community services which might better serve the respondent's or the family's needs without the filing of a petition, and whether or not judicial action appears appropriate and reasonably likely to help.
Interagency Collaboration and Services Integration Commission DC Code § 2-1595. Duties Within 90 days of the applicability of this subchapter, the Commission shall: (1) Develop an information-sharing agreement that: Adheres to all applicable provisions of federal and District law and professional standards regarding confidentiality, including Commission procedures and protocols for safeguarding confidential and other child-related information; Uses a form created by the Commission for obtaining consent to assessment and disclosure of confidential information from a participant or the parent or legal guardian of the participant to education, law enforcement, and human service agencies; and Permits Commission personnel to collect information from agencies participating in the agreement to facilitate comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessments and the development and implementation of integrated service plans; (2) Develop procedures and protocols for safeguarding confidential and other participantrelated information, documents, files, electronic communications, and computer data, including: Procedures for determining when a fully informed and written consent to assessment and disclosure of confidential information is provided by a participant or the parent or legal guardian of the participant; and 40
The circumstances and manner in which confidential information collected and maintained by designated personnel of the Commission may be disclosed, as permitted by applicable provisions of local and federal law, to: Other personnel of the Commission for the exclusive purposes of conducting comprehensive, multi-disciplinary assessments of children or creating and implementing integrated service plans for children; and Education, law enforcement, human service agencies, or other service providers identified in the disclosure consent for the exclusive purpose of creating and implementing integrated service plans; and
(3) Identify a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary assessment instrument that shall be used by school-based clinicians to: Determine the extent to which children are affected by risk and protective factors as individuals and as members of families, communities, and schools; Determine the extent to which children have service needs resulting from emotional disturbance, substance abuse, exposure to violence, or learning disabilities; Provide therapeutic interventions; and Assist in the development of integrated service plans; (c) The Commission shall: Have authority over an interagency database housed in a secure location to store assessment information, data gathered pursuant to the information-sharing agreement described in subsection (a) of this section, and any other data relevant to service integration and the ongoing assessment of programs implemented or supported by the Commission; Conduct an annual independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the programs supported, facilitated, or overseen by the Commission, including: (A) The impact on academic performance, levels of violence by and against children, truancy, and delinquency; and (B) The cost effectiveness of the programs, taking into account such factors as reductions, or potential reductions, in out-of-home placements and in law enforcement expenditures, and the extent to which the Commission's member agencies have developed the capacity to sustain the programs and activities; (3)(A) Report, on an annual basis, within 90 days after the end of the fiscal year, to the Mayor and the Council on the status and progress of the efforts to meet the objectives of the Commission, including a description of activities, alignment with the statewide education and youth development framework and strategic plan, and the results of the evaluation required by paragraph (2) of this subsection and any recommendations made by the Commission to the public, the Mayor, or the Council; Make available on the Deputy Mayor for Education's website: (A) An updated list and description of ongoing initiatives and subcommittees of the Commission. 41
Reports of Neglected Children DC Code § 4-1321.02. Persons required to make reports; procedure. A person specified in subsection (b) of this section shall report to the Child and Family Services Agency any child who is age 5 through 13 years and who has 10 or more days of unexcused absences within a school year, as that term is defined in § 38-201(4). Each public, independent, private, or parochial school shall report to the Child and Family Services Agency any child who is 5 through 13 years and who has 10 or more days of Search Term Begin unexcused absences Search Term End within a school year, as that term is defined in § 38-201(4); provided, that this provision shall not supersede section 2103.5 of Title 5 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations. A report made pursuant to this subsection shall not be considered a child abuse or neglect report as that term is defined in § 4-1301.02(17), requiring an investigation pursuant to Part A of subchapter I of this chapter.
Eligibility for public assistance; learn fare. DC Code § 4-205.65. As a condition of eligibility for federally-funded TANF benefits, a pregnant or parenting teen who is not married and has not successfully completed a high school education or its equivalent shall be required to attend school regularly (as defined by the Board or other entity that determines the attendance policies at the pregnant or parenting teen's educational institution or program) or be determined ineligible for federally-funded TANF benefits. The requirements of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not affect the eligibility for TANF benefits of a child living with a pregnant or parenting teen who, if otherwise eligible, may receive TANF benefits determined without regard to the needs of the ineligible pregnant or parenting teen. The types of schools that can be attended to meet the school attendance requirements of subsection (a) of this subsection are as follows: a public school, private school, independent school, parochial school, private instruction, or a course of study or home school program meeting the standards established by the Board for granting a high school equivalency diploma. A pregnant or parenting teen who fails to meet the school attendance requirements set forth in subsection (a) of this section shall be provided counseling, tutoring, or other supportive services deemed appropriate by the Department to help the pregnant or parenting teen improve school attendance, or in the case of a drop-out, to return to school. Such supportive services will be provided as appropriations are available and in accordance with regulations issued by the Mayor.
Public Education-Primary and Secondary, School Attendance. 42
DC Code § 38-203. Enforcement; penalties. An accurate daily record of the attendance of all minors covered by § 38-202 and this section shall be kept by the teachers of each public, independent, private, or parochial school and by every teacher who gives instruction privately. These records shall be open for inspection at all times by the Board, the Superintendent of Schools, school attendance officers, or other persons authorized to enforce this subchapter. It shall be the duty of each principal, head teacher, or school administrative officer as designated in each public, independent, private, or parochial school, and of each teacher who gives private instruction to report to the Board the school attendance of any minor covered by § 38-202(a) who is enrolled in a school or who is enrolled for private instruction and who is absent from school or instruction for more than 2 fullday sessions or 4 half-day sessions in any school month, along with a statement of the reasons for the absences. The absence a minor covered by § 38-202(a) without valid excuse shall be unlawful. The parent, guardian, or other person who has custody or control of a minor covered by § 38-202(a) who is absent from school without a valid excuse shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Any person convicted of failure to keep a minor in regular attendance in a public, independent, private, or parochial school, or failure to provide regular private instruction acceptable to the Board may be fined not less than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 5 days, or both for each offense. Each unlawful absence of a minor for 2 full-day sessions or for 4 half-day sessions during a school month shall constitute a separate offense. For the 1st offense, upon payment of costs, the sentence may be suspended and the defendant may be placed on probation. For any person convicted under this section, the courts shall consider requiring the offender to perform community service as an alternative to fine or imprisonment or both. Within 60 days after the end of a school year, each public, independent, private, or parochial school shall report to the Mayor, or the Mayor's designee, and make publicly available, the following data based on the preceding school year: (A) The number of minors, categorized by grade, or equivalent grouping for ungraded schools, who had unexcused absences for:
(i) One to 5 days; (ii) Six to 10 days; (iii) Eleven to 20 days; and (iv) Twenty-one or more days; (B) The number of minors, categorized by grade, or equivalent grouping for ungraded schools, that the school reported to the Child and Family Services Agency pursuant to § 4-1321.02(a-1) and (a-2); and (C) The policy on absences, including defined categories of valid excuses that it used. 43
Crimes Committed Against Minors. DC Code § 22-811. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor. It is unlawful for an adult, being 4 or more years older than a minor, to invite, solicit, recruit, assist, support, cause, encourage, enable, induce, advise, incite, facilitate, permit, or allow the minor to be truant from school. Loitering around business establishments prohibited during school hours. DC Code § 36-521. No owner or employee of a business establishment shall permit a minor under the age of 16, having reasonable grounds to believe that such minor is a truant or unlawfully absent from school, to loiter on the premises of such business establishment during those hours when school is in session. Any person violating the provisions of this section may be fined not less than $25 nor more than $300, or may be imprisoned for not less than 10 days or longer than 30 days.
DC Municipal Regulations Education; attendance and transfers; definitions. 5 DCMR §2199.2 “Educational neglect” means the failure of a parent or guardian to ensure that a child attends school consistent with the requirements of the law including, without limitation, the failure to enroll a school-age child in an educational institution or provide appropriate private instruction; permitting habitual absenteeism from school; inattention to special education needs; refusal to allow or failure to obtain recommended remedial education services; or the failure to obtain treatment or other special education services without reasonable cause. “Truant” means a school-age child who is absent without a valid excuse in compliance with section 2103 of this chapter. “Unexcused absence” means an absence of a school-age child from any portion of the school day without a valid excuse consistent with the requirements of this chapter.
Education; attendance and transfers; attendance records. 5 DCMR §2101 2101.1 Each educational institution shall maintain an accurate daily record of attendance and absences, consistent with data and reporting requirements specified by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for each school-age child. 44
Education; attendance and transfers; closed campuses. 5 DCMR §2102.1 2102.1 Any absence, including an absence from any portion of the day, without a valid excuse shall be presumed to be an unexcused absence.
Education; attendance and transfers; truancy procedure. 5 DCMR §2103 2103.1 Each school-age child who resides in the District of Columbia shall attend a public, independent, private, or parochial school or otherwise receive a thorough and regular education through private instruction pursuant to rules established by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Each LEA shall develop and implement in each of its schools a specific protocol for absenteeism (absenteeism protocol) that focuses on prevention of unexcused absences, also referred to as truancy, including academic and behavioral interventions to address the needs of students. Each LEA shall include as part of its absenteeism protocol the following: (a) A description of valid excused absences consistent with this chapter; (b) A process for informing, training, and educating school staff, students, parents, guardians, and the community of the LEA with regard to enhancing school attendance, implementing truancy reduction methods, administering attendance policies and procedures, and related collaborative services; (c) Procedures for monitoring, reporting, addressing, and evaluating attendance and absences consistent with District of Columbia attendance and absence reporting requirements including: (1) A procedure requiring personal contact(s) with the parent or guardian of a student, each time a student has the equivalent of one (1) day of unexcused absence and defining the reasonable timeframe in which this contact must be made; (2) A continuum of school practices and services including meaningful supports, incentives, intervention strategies, and consequences for dealing with absenteeism and consultation with parents or guardians, both at the onset of absenteeism and in those circumstances where chronic absenteeism persists; (3) A referral process whereby within two (2) school days after 45
a student has accumulated five (5) or more unexcused absences in one (1) marking period or other similar time frame, the student shall be referred to a school-based student support team which will meet within two (2) days of the referral and regularly thereafter to: (A) Review and address the student’s attendance and related issues; Communicate and/or collaborate with the parents or guardian; Provide timely response to the student’s truant behavior; Make recommendations for academic, diagnostic, or social work services; Use school and community resources to abate the student’s truancy including referral to a communitybased organization when available; and
(F) Develop an attendance intervention plan in consultation with the student’s parents or guardian. (4) If a student accumulates ten (10) unexcused absences at any time during a school year, the school-based student support team assigned to the student shall notify the school administrator within two (2) days after the tenth (10th) unexcused absence with a plan for immediate intervention including delivery of community-based programs and any other assistance or services to identify and address the student’s needs on an emergency basis; and
A process at the LEA, including specific due process procedures, for a parent, guardian, or student to appeal any attendance violation decisions made by the LEA or an individual school within an LEA. Each LEA shall maintain records and report in a format consistent with data reporting requirements specified by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Each LEA shall develop a process to refer students to District of Columbia entities outside the LEA under the following circumstances: 46
Students between the ages of five (5) and thirteen (13) shall be referred by the LEA to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) no later than two (2) school days after the accrual of ten (10) consecutive unexcused absences and/or completion of the procedures specified in Section 2103.3 of this chapter, or immediately at any time that educational neglect is suspected; (b) Students between the ages of five (5) and thirteen (13) shall be referred by the LEA to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) no later than two (2) school days after the accrual of twenty (20) unexcused absences within one (1) school year and completion of the intervention process or immediately at any time educational neglect is suspected; and (c) Students over the age of thirteen (13) shall be referred by the LEA to the Court Social Services Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Juvenile Section no later than two (2) school days after the accrual of twenty five (25) or more unexcused absences at any time within one (1) school year. Copies of the following documents shall be provided with a referral made pursuant to this chapter: (a) The student’s attendance and absence record; (b) (c) (d) Any prevention and intervention plans; Documentation related to referrals and outcome of such referrals; Documentation representing evidence of communications, services, and attendance related interventions taken by the school; Documentation of suspected educational neglect; Documentation of personal contacts with, and written notification to, parents or guardians with regard to the unexcused absences; and If applicable, the student’s Individualized Education Program with any supporting evaluations or assessments.
Written notification of any referral made pursuant to this Section shall be provided to a parent or guardian at the time a referral is made. The standards for school attendance may identify a specific number of excessive or unexcused absences allowed within a marking period, semester, or school year, provided that reporting is consistent with applicable laws and regulations. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education shall develop 47
reporting procedures as appropriate to assist educational institutions and private instructors with compliance with reporting requirements under applicable federal and District of Columbia laws. 2103.10 The Office of the State Superintendent of Education shall evaluate the effectiveness of these regulations and make further recommendations as appropriate to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education shall have the opportunity to revisit the regulation’s effectiveness on an annual basis.
Education; attendance and transfers; reporting requirements. 5 DCMR §2104 2104.1 An educational institution shall submit to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, upon request, information relating to attendance and compulsory education in conformance with this chapter. Each educational institution subject to this chapter shall provide to the State Superintendent of Education, upon request, information relating to a report of enrollments and withdrawals in conformance with D.C. Official Code §38-205. The reports required under this chapter shall, to the extent practicable, conform to the format requested by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and include the name, address, sex, date of birth, and student identification number as appropriate, of each minor residing permanently or temporarily in the District of Columbia who enrolls in, withdraws from, or transfers from an educational institution. An educational institution shall notify the Office of the State Superintendent of Education immediately upon information, reason, or belief that a school-age child who has been withdrawn from a school has not been re-enrolled in a school following withdrawal from school or is not receiving private instruction.
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