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.