Chronic Truancy Initiative

An Effective Practice


The Chronic Truancy Initiative (formerly the Elementary Absenteeism Initiative) was developed as a result of a citizen evaluation of community problems and needs in a Weed and Seed target area in a midwestern urban community. Residents of the community wanted to reduce the number of children unsupervised, juvenile crime, loitering, and graffiti in the community. Research has shown that truancy in elementary school is a strong predictor of truancy in high school, which is linked to delinquency.

School principals reviewed attendance lists at regular intervals to identify youths for inclusion in the program. Parents or guardians of the identified students were sent a form letter informing them of the specific number of days their child had missed. The letter also stressed the importance of compliance with the State compulsory school attendance law while noting potential consequences for noncompliance, including prosecution. Two weeks after the initial letter was sent to parents, the principal reviewed the student's attendance to check for improvement. If there was no improvement, the student was referred to the truant officer. The truant officer then checked for possible siblings who may also have had attendance problems and contacted the family by phone or visit. A parent or guardian was required to sign a written acknowledgment of the child's nonattendance. If further intervention was deemed necessary, the truant officer forwarded relevant information to a community mental health agency or the child and family services agency. A caseworker was assigned to the case who in turn conducted an assessment of the family, then provided follow-up services. If attendance did not improve after 2 weeks, a local police officer visited the home with the truant officer, who informed the parents or guardians of available services and potential consequences for noncompliance. The officer documented the visit and determined whether the case should be referred to a participating community resource. If attendance remained unchanged shortly thereafter, further steps were taken, depending on the age of the youth. Under the State's compulsory school attendance law, for students younger than 12 whose parents or guardians did not cooperate with the school, a warrant was sought for parental prosecution.

Goal / Mission

The goal of the initiative was to address poor attendance and other problems within families of identified chronic elementary school truants who missed 20 percent or more of school days within a 6-week period.

Results / Accomplishments

At the aggregate level, the percentage of students with extreme absences decreased during the 1999-2000 school year for each school. Analyses showed a significant reduction in the rate of absences--from 18.1 percent to 13.8 percent--after the initial letter was mailed home to parents (n=281). For those students who received a visit from the attendance officer (n=51), there was another significant reduction in absences--from 24.7 percent to 18.6 percent. A referral to social services (n=18) also resulted in a slight reduction of absences (from 24.1 to 23.7), but this was not statistically significant. There was a nonsignificant increase in absences (24.1 percent to 25.1 percent) after police contacted a family (n=12).

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Tim Bynum
School of Criminal Justice
560 Baker Hall
Michigan State University
(517) 355-2197
Public Safety / Crime & Crime Prevention
Education / Student Performance K-12
Michigan State University
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model Programs Guide (MPG)
Date of publication
Geographic Type
For more details
Target Audience
Children, Families