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Comprehensive Truancy Intervention Spells Success for Jacksonville Students

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2005
This paper describes the components and presents the evaluation results for Jacksonville's (Florida) Truancy Arbitration Program (TAP).
TAP, which is administered by the State Attorney's Office (SAO), targets elementary students and their parents. After school staff and the truant's parents meet to address their child's unexcused absences (Attendance Intervention Team meeting), the SAO summons the parents and the student to a hearing conducted in an attorney's office. Attorney volunteers act as arbitrators for the program, and school social workers also participate in the hearings. The focus is on identifying and addressing problems related to the truancy. When appropriate, students are referred for counseling or tutoring. Parents are referred to parenting skills classes. After each hearing, the parents and the student are required to sign a performance agreement that compels school attendance. The SAO emphasizes to the parent and the child that all legal avenues will be pursued to ensure school attendance, including criminal prosecution of the parents. A random sample of 471 school records was examined for students whose parents met with the Attendance Intervention Team (AIT) in the 2003-2004 school year. This report provides data on the gender, special education status, reading achievement, suspensions, and promotion of the truants. In addition to the AIT meetings and the nonjudicial SAO hearing, there are four truancy centers across the city, and a diverse group of community stakeholders was formed to increase public awareness of truancy. The preliminary evaluation findings indicate that the TAP does reduce unexcused absences and late arrival at school. 2 figures and 1 table