August 4, 2008

U.S. Senate Designates August as National Truancy Prevention Month

Whitehouse Resolution Stresses Importance of Attending School

Washington, D.C. – As Rhode Island students prepare to head back to school this fall, federal lawmakers are urging families, schools, and law enforcement officials to work together to keep kids in the classroom and on the right track.

Last Friday, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, authored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), designating August 2008 as National Truancy Prevention Month and recognizing that chronic truancy causes serious harm to young people in America. The resolution notes that “truancy has been shown to be the first and best indicator that a child will drop out of school, use marijuana for the first time, and commit juvenile crimes by the age of 15.”

“There is no substitute for time in the classroom, particularly in middle school, a pivotal time,” said Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island Attorney General and longtime advocate for truancy prevention. “When I was Attorney General, my office prosecuted far too many kids who first got into trouble because they were skipping school. We need to get to these young people early to make sure they understand that life with a high school diploma is likely to be significantly better than life without one.”

Truancy has become a pervasive problem for schools across the country, particularly public schools in urban areas. Students who demonstrate a lack of commitment to school are at an increased risk for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and school dropout. Currently, only 70 percent of American students earn their high school diploma, though the average annual income for a high school dropout in 2005 was $17,299, compared to $26,933 for a high school graduate.

Preventing rising dropout rates means confronting truancy early on. A recent survey found that 11 percent of 8th grade students reported skipping 1 or more days of school during a 30-day period. By the time students reach 12th grade, that number balloons to a staggering 35 percent.

Whitehouse’s resolution is supported by the National Truancy Prevention Association.


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