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September is Attendance Awareness Month

It’s already September! Across the country, communities, school districts, and nonprofits are marking Attendance Awareness Month.

CC licensed to Brad Flickinger

The research is pretty clear: missing lots of school, for any reason, can cause children to fall behind academically and put them at increased risk of dropping out or delaying graduation.

In January of this year Voices for Children took a look at data on students who were chronically absent (missing 10-15% of school days). We found that:

  • 11.5% of Nebraska students (33,243 in all) missed 15 or more days of school during the 2012-2013 school year;
  • 25% of these students were in elementary school, 21% were in middle school, and 53% were in high school;
  • More than two of every three live in poverty; and
  • Children of color are disproportionately represented.

To see our full analysis, you can view the issue brief on our website.

Another troubling finding from the report was that schools were increasingly relying on referring youth to the juvenile court system to try to address attendance issues. National research has shown this approach to be among the least effective and has highlighted the risks of juvenile justice involvement for youth.

Luckily, lawmakers recognized these risks and made changes to Nebraska’s laws with the passage of LB 464. Now court intervention is a last resort and can only take place after work at the school level to address attendance barriers.

With this new law in place for the new school year, school districts and communities will have an opportunity to help keep kids in school and address chronic absenteeism in better ways. There are a plethora of resources out there for interested parties to use.  We’d refer anyone who’s interested to the Attendance Awareness Month website, as a great starting point.

Here’s hoping that this school year brings a renewed focus on working with families and community partners to make sure kids can get to school and stay out of the court system.

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