When children skip school and are referred to the juvenile delinquency system, probation officers and defense attorneys must work to identify the underlying issues triggering the truancy and attempt to hook that student up with needed services while diverting the child out of the system. Ideally, this process would happen before referral to the system is even necessary, according to a recent article by Dean Hill Rivkin and Brenda McGee, No Child Left Behind?: Representing Youth and Families in Truancy Matters, 47 Clearinghouse Rev. J. of Poverty L. & Pol’y 275 (Nov.-Dec. 2013).
Factors that can impact a child’s choice to skip school that may require intervention (not all are noted in the article) include:
- Unidentified or underserved special education needs,
- The use of computer-based educational programming for children who are unable to work independently on a computer,
- The use of alternative school schedules for “troubled children” — sometimes as little as three hours per day in schools throughout Indiana — that virtually ensures that a child will be unable to obtain adequate credit hours to graduate with his or her class,
- School discipline that results in the child missing extensive amounts of school through suspensions and expulsions with the child falling hopelessly behind or the child feeling unwelcome in the school;
- Access to health care if the child is uninsured or underinsured and does not have access to doctors to provides notes to excuse medically-related absences,
- Unmet or unidentified mental health care needs, whether there are access to care issues, poverty issues preventing ongoing services and medication management, or if the child is receiving care that the family finds too intrusive and is uncooperative, including a lack of confidentiality with the school administration if the mental health counselors are embedded at the school,
- Homelessness and evictions, and
- Lack of clothing that fits the school uniform requirements or lack of adequate, clean clothing.