The Washington Unified School District is working with families to stop chronic absenteeism, which is a serious problem facing many schools across Fresno County. According to the California Education Code, a student is considered a chronic absentee if they are absent 10% or more of the days that they are enrolled in school.
In a statement released on August 31, 2017, California State Superintendent, Tom Torlakson, explained that, “Chronic absenteeism has been linked to high dropout rates, poor literacy skills, and behavior issues that could lead students down a path away from school and towards the criminal justice system.” In order to combat chronic absenteeism, Washington Unified is committed to working with parents using the Truancy Intervention Process.
As part of the process, school staff will reach out to families whose students miss as little as 1-2 days of school. As absences increase, families will be contacted to set up appointments with school staff so that a plan can be put in place to help the child attend school. A school liaison may visit a family’s home in order to provide support or connect the family with local services. Once a student has been absent 10 or more days during the school year, that student and their family will be referred to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB), which includes a meeting at the Juvenile Justice Campus with the district’s Truancy Officer. Finally, families may be referred to court and could face penalties including, a fine of up to $500, if they fail to meet the terms of the SARB.
What can parents do to be proactive when it comes to school attendance? First, make sure your child is getting enough rest. Put away all devices at the same time each night and encourage your child to get a good night’s sleep so that they will be ready for school. Keep your child healthy during winter months by encouraging them to wash their hands often and dressing them warmly during cold weather. Finally, if you are concerned about sickness, see your child’s doctor or visit the school nurse right away.
If you are concerned about your child’s school attendance, your child’s school can help! There are many services available for students and families to ensure that every child feels safe, healthy, and welcomed at school. Please contact your school site for more information.