Launched in 2004, the Center’s Truancy Prevention Project (TPP) reduces the high dropout rate in some of Connecticut’s poorest schools.
Photo by Richard Freed, courtesy of The Tow Foundation.
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Profiles of the Children
Eva, a 14 year old middle school student, struggled in school. Her teachers consistently reported that she was disruptive and disrespectful. She’d been suspended for 15 days, had many disciplinary write-ups, and was arrested for her disruptive behavior. School staff could not keep Eva in the classroom.
Eva was failing. She’d been promoted by exception to eighth grade, meaning she had not met the academic standards for promotion. The Center for Children’s Advocacy became involved in Eva’s case through our Truancy Prevention Project (TPP), which works with middle school students to lower truancy and dropout rates.
Despite long-standing academic struggles, Eva had never been evaluated for special education services and no one had addressed the inadequacy of her educational program. We worked with Eva and a TPP case manager to create a plan for academic and behavioral success. Eva was evaluated and placed in an educational setting with a significantly smaller student-to-teacher ratio, fewer transitions between classes and more structured behavioral redirection. She began to receive speech and language services and benefited from social work services at school.
The new structure greatly improved Eva’s school life. Teachers reported that she engaged in the classroom, behaved respectfully, and began to understand that she can succeed. She has had no further suspensions or disciplinary write-ups and no longer wanders the hallways. Eva reports that she feels good about her schoolwork.
In addition to Eva’s personal achievements, her story reflects the strength of the TPP’s collaborative partnerships. As a result of our efforts in getting her an appropriate educational placement, TPP case managers were able to have Eva’s delinquency case diverted to the Juvenile Review Board to keep her out of court and away from juvenile delinquency involvement.
The Center’s systemic work helps many students
Individual cases like Eva’s inform our systemic advocacy. Many children are arrested at school for behavior that could be handled within the regular disciplinary system. Eva’s arrest by a school resource officer (SRO – a police officer stationed in the school) became an integral part of our advocacy for legislation to provide additional training to help SROs work with youth to resolve behavioral issues and avoid involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Eva’s case also emphasizes the importance of our continued efforts to raise public awareness about truancy and its root causes. Dr. Andrea Spencer, our educational consultant, compiled data from her TPP work to suggest systemic improvements for services to truant youth. Her report, Las Niñas Silenciadas, addresses the root causes of the truancy epidemic faced by Latina girls. It has been provided to key policy-makers to improve discourse about important support services.
The Center’s systemic advocacy extends to issues faced by youth who are considered status offenders – the majority of whom are truant from school – to provide services that address the root causes of status offense behavior and avoid court involvement. We continue to advocate for statewide Family Support Centers (FSC), one-stop locations where youth can access community services that include counseling, academic assistance and anger management.