Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Select Maryland school districts are including judges on teams that work with kids to prevent truancy in the future.
Truancy, or unexcused absences from school, can be an early indicator of potential troubling behaviors. In Maryland, truants at select schools may be able to get help and encouragement from an unlikely figure: a judge. The University of Baltimore School of Law's Truancy Court Program uses volunteer judges as one part of a team of administrators and program officials that meet with kids as an early intervention to figure out why they miss five to 20 days of school per semester. The judges don't practice law in their role, instead using their status and authority to help and encourage kids to stay in school. The team meets with kids (and parents if they choose to be involved) at school once a week for 10 weeks. During those meetings, the team discovers reasons why kids aren't at school, be it issues at home, trouble getting to school or problems at school like bullying. The team then arranges for tutoring, counseling, mentoring and other community services to reduce absenteeism. The program, implemented in select Baltimore City schools since 2005 and expanding to four more school systems, boasts a 75 percent decrease in school absences among program participants. The Washington Post reports that in Montgomery County, most of the students in the month-old program have zero tardies thus far. (Photo thumbnail: ToastyKen on Flickr)