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Reflection: Early Intervention & Prevention

 
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Many people still misunderstand truancy to be a middle/high-school-only concern.

Yes, the middle-high school years are when students begin to make their own choices, such as whether they will go to school or cut class, but most teenage truants have a history of chronic absenteeism stemming from the elementary school levels.

When asked why they skip school, teenage truants give similar reasons (excuses): "School is boring." or "The teacher doesn't like me." or "I don't see how math (or other subject) matters in life."

In some cases, the reasons for absences are more serious such as safety, teen pregnancy, and medical-health issues, and these are often exacerbated by the general disconnection from education.

We must continue to remind ourselves and others that reasons for absences are catalysts, not causes, of truancy. The root-level causes of truancy are: not valuing education; disconnection from the school; lack of personal responsibility; and/or attitudes of entitlement, passivity, and misplaced blame.

Wouldn't it be best to do all that we can during the elementary school years so that students value education and build connections to school and develop a strong sense of personal responsibility (while continuing efforts to re-engage teen truants)?

A study group reported that of all known interventions to reduce juvenile delinquency, preventive interventions that focus on child delinquency is a better approach. Specifically, these efforts should be directed at the prevention of persistent disruptive behavior in children in general. "The earlier the better" should be the theme in establishing interventions. [Child delinquency: early intervention and prevention. Child Delinquency Bulletin Series, U.S. Department of Justice, May 2003].

Why aren't there more prevention programs?

Most juvenile justice, child welfare, and school resources currently focus on adolescent juvenile offenders whose behaviors are already persistent. More common are education and behavior management programs for youth in middle and high schools rather than for children in elementary schools. These interventions usually seek to remediate delinquency after disruptive behaviors have emerged. [Child delinquency: early intervention and prevention. Child Delinquency Bulletin Series, U.S. Department of Justice, May 2003].

"Unfortunately, many policymakers are unaware of the efficacy and cost effectiveness of alternative interventions and often choose not to fund early prevention methods that can benefit juveniles in general and taxpayers and citizens in particular." [Loeber, R. et al., 2003. Child delinquency: early intervention and prevention. Child Delinquency Bulletin Series, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, Page 12].

 

 

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Truancy in Hawaii and Beyond
URL: www.hawaii.edu/truancy
College of Education
University of Hawaii

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