Reflections on the Truancy Court Program

By Gauri Khanna, CFCC Student Fellow 2013-2014

Only two sessions into the Truancy Court Program (“TCP”), I have already noticed a dramatic change in students’ attendance. While it is still early in the year, the students seem as though they want to make a genuine effort to attend school, be on time, and do well in their classes. However, one of the main goals of the TCP is to address the root causes of truant behavior. While we attempt to investigate what those causes are with each student who comes into the TCP sessions, sometimes it can be quite a challenge when the parents don’t attend sessions or don’t take an active role in their children’s’ day-to-day lives. Many parents are often oblivious to what their children are doing, especially in regard to their education.

Upon reflection on the past two sessions at Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School’s TCP, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more we could do. Even with limited resources, how can we expand this program? I noticed that many parents don’t know how to discipline their children by setting rules and guidelines for them to follow. Some parents are simply too busy working multiple jobs to try to provide for their children. However, other parents just don’t have the basic parenting skills that can help their children succeed. One parent admitted that her children were late to school on numerous occasions, not because the children could not wake up in the morning, but because she had a difficult time waking up in the morning.

Even though our sessions are geared primarily toward the students and encouraging them to want to attend school, to set dreams and goals for themselves, I strongly believe that these are things that should begin at home. If the parents don’t encourage their children, don’t take school seriously, don’t set rules for the children, then why should the children be expected to do well? I believe we should hold sessions with only the parents. If many parents can’t take time off on Friday mornings to come to this school’s TCP session, we can discuss what other time may work to avoid scheduling conflicts. Is it reasonable to have even one session a month focused solely on the parents and geared toward assisting them to develop their parenting skills? I would like to give tips to the parents such as sample schedules they can set for their children from the time they come home from school to the time they should go to sleep. Sometimes parents leave all of their tasks for the morning, which makes the students late, so even tips such as making their lunches for the next day the night before or setting their clothes out the night before could be helpful. I believe that the root cause of most truant behavior begins with problems at home and if we can attempt to change or improve some of the parents’ behaviors, helping the students will be far simpler.

0 thoughts on “Reflections on the Truancy Court Program

  1. I think you make an excellent point: the root cause of most truant behavior begins with problems at home. Also participating in the TCP, I have had the unique experience of getting a look into not only the Baltimore City Public School System but also more importantly, the Baltimore City community. Reasons why children are truant, such as having to care for their younger brothers or sisters or having to take care of what seems like adult responsibilities is hard to fathom coming from a community where that sort of thing is unheard of. When I was in elementary and middle school in Anne Arundel County– I went to school everyday—everyone in my class was there everyday and that was that. Being able to speak to the students in the TCP has shown me that it is typical that the students are not going to school, not because they are playing hooky but instead because they are helping their parents with adult responsibilities. Of course the first person we want to blame is the parents. Why have the parents made it so that their minor children have to miss school to take care of younger siblings? Why is that the parents do not hold their children accountable for doing homework? And the list goes on of questions about why aren't the parents, simply parenting. However, most times, parents could be doing the best that they know how to do and in their situation they need to worry about the basics: food, water and shelter–not having school as a main priority. I believe that truant problems do stem from home and that parenting can always be improved. However, instead of blaming parents for their lack of parenting skills–I think the community should be held accountable. I think that there needs to be more programs like the TCP or more programs to help with the root issues to ensure that Baltimore City children are not destined to fail.

  2. Great post Gauri. I think a parent only session would be both beneficial to the parent as well as their child. Plus, I cannot see a downside to having a parent only meeting. It would give parents the opportunity to discuss issues concerning their children with other parents who might be dealing with similar issues. This gives parents the chance to receive feedback, allowing them to work with one another to come up with beneficial solutions.

  3. Melissa, I do agree with you, however I did not necessarily mean to blame the parents. I have noticed that a lot of the parents are doing the best that they can, but simply do not have the resources necessary or lack skills, and just feel that they could benefit from additional sessions. But perhaps you are right and the community should be working harder to help these families. I'm sure this is a budgetary/resources issue too though.

  4. I have seen the same issue at my TCP school. Unfortunately, we have not had many parents participate and it has really made me think about what other issues these children may be having at home. It seems hard for a first-grader to understand what truancy is, and why they are sitting at the table every week. It would be so beneficial for the parent to be involved (especially with younger children) because most of the time, it is not that young child's fault. I think it is great that TCP has made so many connections in the community and are able to offer referrals to organizations that can help parents. But it is the parent that must realize they need help, and accept that help.

  5. After hearing how engaged and interested the parents at the Learning Differences workshop were, I feel like the lack of resources (time and budget) is a primary reason for the lack of parental involvement. The old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child” is true even more today with parents juggling multiple jobs just to provide the basic necessities for their families. Like Melissa, I truly feel that more community resources would help not just these families immediate needs but ultimately help the community enlarge. While I am grateful that the TCP program plays a role helping parents and children understand the importance of education, it would be nice to see other organizations also contribute in helping ensure that the families receive the necessary resources to enable them to make school a priority.

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