By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Truancy is a major problem that affects many schools in the U.S. and schools have long recognized it as an issue.
This issue unfortunately did not skip over the local school districts, and it prompted the need to form a truancy program, currently being managed by Adolescent Support Services director Ivanhoe Love Jr. and his staff.
Over the course of the most recent school year, Love said 135 students were brought into the program and out of those 135, 33 of them were graduating seniors. Love added that 59 other students in the program graduated from the program itself but not high school, as they were non-senior students.
“I think we’ve done a very good job at our mission and that is to offer a program for kids who are struggling with truancy issues, to get them back in school and involved in the educational process,” Love said. “I think with what we’ve done, the numbers show that.”
The truancy program works with the court system to help out the students who are in the program, which lasts six months and requires students in the program to report to court weekly and tell their grades and their attendance.
Jennifer Cuevas, who will be a senior at Liberal High School, said being in the truancy has helped her and her grades tremendously. She had to enroll in the program at the end of her sophomore year after missing several days because of illness.
“The main thing I have learned is taking responsibility towards your actions and I also learned that missing school, it’s a really big deal because you can get behind especially with the new competency-based grading, it makes it much harder if you miss one day because everything’s based on your grades.” she said. “With the truancy program, it’s just you have to keep up with everything that you do – your truancy officer is like your second mom and they’re trying to see that you’re there, they’re trying for you to pass, they get you to the point where you need to graduate.”
Bambi Fulton, one of the truancy officers, said she is always amazed by the transformations she sees in her students in the program.
“A lot of them – when we get them – they don’t think they’re even going to finish high school, they don’t want to finish high school,” Fulton said. “They have no drive, no push and by the time we’re done teaching them all of those life skills and teen issues we’re like a huge support system for them when those parents can’t be there also. By the time we get done, they’re graduating high school, they’re going on to college, their dreams have just grown in that time.”
The system used by the truancy program has three phases the students must go through, which in total lasts roughly six months unless extenuating circumstances cause the students to remain with the program longer. After they have gone through the three phases, they graduate from the program.
Another part of the program includes the students in the program taking life skills and teen issues classes, where they discuss issues like alcohol and drug use, suicide and bullying. Jennifer Harvey, another one of the three truant officers, said these classes make a huge impact on the students.
“We have truancy kids that are completely different and would never interact with each other in a social circle at school,” Harvey said. “So it’s really good as someone who’s teaching that course to see these kids talking about issues...they all get together and problem-solve together and work together as a group and outside of school they probably wouldn’t normally do that so watching them is great.”
Even thought the program is young, Love said he believes the program is doing exactly what it should and the program can only improve.
“The bottom line to it is that in order for a student to graduate our program, they must have all passing grades and cannot have any unexcused absences or tardies,” Love explained. “I think our standards are a little high, but it seems to work and we have a good result from it.”