Abolish Chronic Truancy (ACT)
Abolish Chronic Truancy (ACT), places prosecutors in elementary schools to work with administrators, teachers, parents and students to intervene at the very beginning of the truancy cycle. Prosecutors inform parents that it is their legal responsibility to ensure their children attend school and that education is as essential as food, clothing, and shelter in a child’s life. If there are problems interfering with the ability of the child to go to school, prosecutors attempt to find community resources to help overcome those problems. If the child continues to be truant, the prosecutor can take legal action, prosecuting the student, the parent, or both.
ACT intervenes at the elementary-school age for a number of reasons:
- Truant behavior is not as ingrained at this age as it will later become.
- The parent of the elementary school-aged child still has control over the child and can, therefore, be held accountable.
- If intervention occurs later in the child’s life, he/she will have fallen so far behind academically as a result of truancy that getting the pupil back in school will be a matter of winning the battle having already lost the war.
While prosecution can result from ACT intervention, the focus of the program is not to punish parents and students, but to get truants off the streets and back in the classroom.
School attendance review boards (SARBs)
School attendance review boards (SARBs) are composed of school and community members who meet regularly to diagnose and resolve persistent student attendance or behavior problems. The California Department of Education states:
California compulsory education law requires everyone between the ages of six and eighteen years of age to attend school, except sixteen and seventeen year-olds who have graduated from high school or passed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) and obtained parental permission to leave. Some students, however, violate compulsory education laws and have a pattern of unexcused absences. Although truancy and excessive absenteeism are not new problems, they cause costly, long-term problems for the students, school, and the community.
In 1974, the Legislature enacted California Education Code (EC) Section 48320 to enhance the enforcement of compulsory education laws and to divert students with school attendance or behavior problems from the juvenile justice system until all available resources have been exhausted. EC Section 48321 provides several organizational structures for School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) at the local and county level to create a safety net for students with persistent attendance or behavior problems. Although the goal of SARBs is to keep students in school and provide them with a meaningful educational experience, SARBs do have the power, when necessary, to refer students and their parents or guardians to court.
County or Local SARBs
School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs), composed of representatives from various youth-serving agencies, help truant or recalcitrant students and their parents or guardians solve school attendance and behavior problems through the use of available school and community resources. County SARBs are convened by the county superintendent at the beginning of each school year. In any county where no county SARB exists, a school district governing board may elect to establish a local SARB, which shall operate in the same manner and have the same authority as a county SARB. In many counties, the county SARB provides consultant services to the local SARBs.
School Attendance Review Team (SART)
SART is a school site team which includes the parent and the student, principal and the School Attendance Review Board chairperson. The goal of this team is to identify possible solutions for the purpose of improving the students' attendance and/or behavior. At the meeting, the student agrees to abide by the directions of the School Attendance Review Team (SART) as outlined below.
- Attend school regularly and on time each day.
- Abide by school rules and regulations.
- Obey the directions of the student’s teachers and administrators.
- Complete all of the student’s class assignments.
- Develop a positive attitude about school.
Parent(s) agree to abide by the directions of the School Attendance Review Team (SART) as outlined below.
- Cooperate with school officials.
- Ensure parent’s (son/daughter)’s compliance with SART directives.
- Comply with SART’s assignments of specific parental responsibilities.
- Notify the attendance office when parent’s son/daughter violates agreement.
- Obtain medical notes when parent’s son/daughter is absent for more than one day.
- Attend classes with parent’s son/daughter after next incidence of truancy/misbehavior.
- Pick up, or make arrangements to have picked up, parent’s son/daughter’s homework if (he/she) will be out of school more than two days.
- Bring parent’s son/daughter to school daily and on time.
- Talk with parent’s son/daughter in positive terms about school.
Failure to attend this meeting with the School Attendance Review Board Chairperson will result in a referral to the district School Attendance Review Board (SARB).