High School truancy discussed at School District meeting

High School truancy discussed at School District meeting

Truancy issues cause concernROCK SPRINGS – With over 500 students at Rock Springs High School each having approximately 35 unexcused absences last year, truancy has become a real issue for the administration of the High School. Administrators addressed the issue with the Sweetwater County School District No. l Board of Trustees during a Tuesday School Board meeting.

RSHS Principal Darrin Peppard stressed to the board that this issue is not just a local issue but is a problem nationwide. After giving the statistic of the 500 students, Peppard explained it deeper, telling the board that the statistic means that each of the 500 students is missing 18.5 days a year. “For every 10 days a student misses in a year, it reduces their chance of graduation by 20 percent,” Peppard said.

After seeing the truancy numbers, the administration at RSHS called a meeting which included all of the players. Peppard said the meeting included Judge Nena James, Rock Springs Police Chief Mike Lowell, the Sweetwater County Attorneys Office and juvenile probation, as well as high school administrators.

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During this meeting, the group came up with several ideas to help combat truancy. Peppard said they developed a list of items to do just that. Peppard said that raising public awareness of how bad the problem of truancy really is the first step.

Another tool the group discussed was a single point of entry to the school. Peppard said there are several places a student can come and go. He explained if they had a single point of entrance if any student leaves and tries to come back they would know and be able to identify students.

Review of district policy was also brought up and the loss of privileges such as open campus and hallway privileges.

Peppard was not the only one to address the board. Carroll Mitchelson of Juvenile Probation said there may be several underlying issues which are causing the truancy. These included parent issues and substance abuse to name a couple. She said they want to see a high focus on the family and when a student is identified making home visits to speak with the entire family. “We need to change the mind frame around the issue,” Mitchelson said.
She also praised Judge Nena James for her work on the issue and the development of the Truancy Court to help change mind sets of students and parents.

RSPD Resource Officer Tracey Frisbee also spoke about involving the entire family.

He told a story to the board which he experienced last year. The administration noticed a student had been absent for a extended amount of time. Frisbee said he went to the students house where he made contact with the parents. He explained that it was discoverer the absences were not a truancy issue and the student was out of the state. He recalled how appreciative the parents were that someone came by to make sure everything was alright.

The steps that Rock Springs High School is looking to take to fight truancy include hiring a truancy coordinator. Peppard said that position would be the middleman for all the agencies involved in the students absentee issues.
Also the school is going to continue to work closely with the Rock Springs Junior High to identify students at a younger age to help stop the problem before it gets bad. Peppard added the administration wants to make a reward system for those who go and stay in school.

“We don’t want to make it all negative, We want to make positive incentives for those who succeed,” Peppard said.

Links to truancy resources