In the third installment of a three-part series on truancy in Texas, Al Jazeera America examines how San Antonio is finding solutions to the state's attendance problem.
In most Texas schools, the punishment for truancy is an adult criminal conviction and a fine. Approximately 100,000 children face truancy charges in the state each year. Texas has been harshly criticized for its handling of students missing school.
But San Antonio is taking a different approach -- and it's working. The city found that many times, students are missing school not because of bad behavior, but because they are working and/or caring for their siblings because their families struggle financially. Rather than slapping the student with criminal charges, San Antonio school districts have teamed up with the city government to identify the reason students are missing school, and find ways to address it.
"If everybody in the household’s working just to put food on the table, can we get them hooked up with the food bank to ease that pressure?” Northside Independent School District superintendent Brian Woods told AJA. “So that the 14-year-old doesn’t have to work so many hours so that he’s not getting home at 2 o’clock in the morning and then we’re asking them to be at school at 6 in the morning.”
So far, this cause-specific approach is working. Truancy cases in San Antonio’s largest school district are down 2,715 from 5,808 in 2010, and attendance rates are rising.
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