Improving Support & Self Esteem is the Best Way to Solve Truancy

Let us explain what we mean.

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  • Truancy is the term used to describe missing several days of school without an excuse. Usually, a child is considered truant after missing 11 or more days of school in Tennessee. In 2015-16 school year, 8 million students were considered chronically absent nationwide.

Why does it matter?

  • Truancy by youth under the age of 12 is the best predictor of a youth’s involvement in delinquency.
  • Truancy is a predictor of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and social isolation. It is also the #1 reason children drop out of school.
  • Truant youth typically have low self-esteem. They tend to be more sensitive to rejection and criticism. This leaves them vulnerable to peer pressure, which may lead them to negative behaviors. This could create barriers to their success and increase incidents with police.
  • Some studies have found that truants have low self-esteem and experience greater feelings of rejection or criticism from their parents than non-truants.
  • According to, “While chronic absence presents academic challenges for students not in class, when it reaches high levels in a classroom or school, all students may suffer because the resulting classroom churn hampers teachers’ ability to engage all students and meet their learning needs.”

What are the underlying issues behind truancy?

  • Students might not be able to come to school if their family health or financial situation pressures them to stay home. Their family may need them to take care of a family member or work during school hours.
  • If a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, they may not have the ability to come to school. Children need support from their parents to attend school.
  • Pressures arising from teen pregnancy or parenting might take priority over attending school.
  • Safety issues like violence near home or between home and school may make children fear leaving the house.
  • Parental alcoholism or drug abuse may be a factor in a child’s truancy.
  • Negative role models, such as peers who are truant or delinquent, might influence a child’s decision to attend school.
  • If the child’s parents/guardians do not value education, the child may not understand why they should go to school.

What are some common causes of truancy?

  • Undiagnosed or mistreated learning disabilities make it much harder to be productive in school. 
  • The lack of a nearby school bus, a safe route to school or food insecurity which make it difficult to go to school every day. 
  • Sometimes, school bullies may affect the child’s desire to be at school and harms their self worth.
  • Fear of school
  • Mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are sometimes punished instead of treated. This can force youth to leave school.

How can the problem be fixed?

  • Avoid making the incorrect assumption that chronically absent students or their parents simply do not care.
  • Create effective programs that get parents/guardians involved, or even the whole family.
  • Create effective programs with meaningful incentives for good attendance, but also create consequences for poor attendance.
  • Establish programs that encourage support systems to work together. Law enforcement, mental health workers, mentors, social workers, and educators can work together.
  • Ensure effective programs put measurable, attainable goals in place for the student. Good records should be kept and the student’s progress should be evaluated regularly.

In our Attendance Mediation program, a mediator meets with the child, parents, and a school representative to help the parties have a conversation. Together, we work to identify the barriers that have prevented consistent school attendance. Then, together they discuss possible solutions that will help improve the situation. At the end of the session, everyone walks out with a plan to help the child get back on track. Often, parents and school representatives also leave with a better understanding of the child!

You can find more information about truancy and our Attendance Mediation program, click here.