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Parents play big role in students avoiding truancy

By Bill Spitzer, P & I Coordinator Parenting Resource Center

What if my student does not want to go to school? What does truancy mean anyway? What time does school start anyway?

These are all great questions and we have heard them before. Truancy was the hot topic at the last Austin Drug Task Force meeting. So why would the Drug Task force be so interested in keeping kids in school? Simple, several studies have determined that lack of commitment to school is a risk factor for substance abuse. Not only is truancy on the mind of the Drug Task force but it is also on the mind of school officials and the Austin Positive Action Coalition (APAC).

The good news, overwhelming, Austin students are going to school on a daily basis. However, that does not mean we can minimize the concern because just under ten percent of our students have attendance issues in one form or another. So, what do we need to do? We all need to step up our game. Since we must start somewhere, let’s start with parents. We need to stay involved with our schools. Know where to find out information about school happenings and schedules as well as be willing to ask questions if we can’t find an answer.

Parents play a very important role in a student’s life and it reminds me of a childhood story my mother would often share with me. Like many people, it is hard to get up in the morning and my mother was no different. I was often late for elementary school because of our slow start in the morning. This continued until the principal shared with my mother the time school started and the importance for me to be there on time. I was never late for school again!

So what if my student doesn’t want to go to school? Then it is certainly time for a family conversation. Students don’t want to school for a variety of reasons and sometimes we need to ask why? Bullying, stress or just being tired are some of the reasons given to school officials. To be more specific on being tired, students are tech tired. What? An interesting study done in Australia, which claims to have the youngest internet users in the world that begin surfing the web at age 8, reveals that 20-40% school-age students have inadequate sleep. So, when you turn out the light, shut off the Wi-Fi.

As far as the definition of Truancy: any intentional unauthorized or illegal absence from compulsory education. Remember we all can do our part to reduce substance abuse and sometimes it is as easy as making sure your students go to school.
Bill Spitzer is the Planning and Implementation (P & I) Coordinator working closely with APAC (Austin Positive Action Coalition). APAC and Bill will be working with our schools and community as part of a 5-year grant focusing on Positive Community Norms. Feel free to contact him at the Austin High School 507.460.1800 ext. 0361 or via e-mail bill.spitzer@austin.k12.mn.us. This grant is made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, ADAD and hosted locally by the PRC. To learn more about the Parenting Resource, visit their website at www.familiesandcommunities.org