Education can mean the difference between a life of hardship and struggle or one of fulfillment and success. It is well documented that most truancy cases can be attributed to a lack of parental involvement and support, low academic success, use of drugs and alcohol, and incidents of domestic violence in the home. The growing truancy epidemic places a burden on families, schools and communities.
In an effort to combat the detrimental effects of truancy, Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert initiated a Truancy Diversion Program (TDP) in 2005 in collaboration with Kentucky Commissioner of Education Gene Wilhoit. The TDP assists middle school students at risk of being charged with a truancy offense because of too many unexcused absences. The program uses a team approach to help students develop good attendance habits and improve their overall school experience. The TDP meets the needs of truant students by using education, prevention, accountability and treatment, if applicable, to address the issues surrounding truancy.
How the Truancy Diversion Program Works
The success of the program depends upon a strong collaboration among the Truancy Diversion Program Review Team, which consists of judges, school personnel and court designated workers. Here is how the program typically works:
- Local judges who want to take part in the Truancy Diversion Program regularly attend meetings at each of the participating middle schools in their jurisdiction. Judicial involvement is critical to the program because it reinforces to students the importance of strong school attendance.
- The TDP Review Team meets weekly to ensure that truant middle school students fulfill the obligations outlined in their personal action plan.
- Court designated workers (CDWs) oversee the program’s administrative duties, such as tracking attendance with the assistance of school personnel, scheduling court reviews, reporting on student participation, working with the county attorney on diversion agreements and assisting the judge. CDWs are employed by the Administrative Office of the Courts to help juveniles charged with offenses to enter diversion programs or to navigate the court system, based upon the court’s ruling. Their work with troubled juveniles gives the CDWs insight into helping truant students.
Precomplaint Phase: The Truancy Diversion Program is divided into two phases. The Precomplaint Phase is when the truant student and his or her parents meet with the TDP Review Team and attend a two-hour educational workshop.
Complaint Phase: The second phase is the Complaint Phase. This phase occurs when the student has been absent or tardy six or more times without a valid excuse and is considered habitually truant. The court designated worker fills out a complaint on the student. The student and his or her parents attend weekly sessions with the TDP Review Team and comply with recommendations and requirements set forth by the team. The Complaint Phase of the program lasts 10 weeks.