Teen Truancy and School Refusal

Is your teen skipping classes or skipping school all together? Are they facing truancy? Truancy is a term used to describe any intentional unauthorized absence from compulsory schooling.

Children in America today lose over five million days of their education each year through truancy.

 

Does this sound familiar?

-Have you discovered your teen has stopped going to school?
-Did you get a notice your teen hasn’t been attending classes?
-The teachers are dumb?
-Does your teen tell you school is stupid and they don’t need it?
-Does your teen tell you they are quitting school?

 

You’re not alone!

 

Often times they do this without the knowledge of their parents or school officials. In common usage the term typically refers to absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate “excused” absences, such as ones related to a medical condition. It may also refer to students who attend school but do not go to classes.

Because of this confusion many schools have their own definitions, and as such the exact meaning of the term itself will differ from school to school and district to district. In order to avoid or diminish confusion, many schools explicitly define the term and their particular usage thereof in the school’s handbook of policies and procedures. In many instances truancy is the term referring to an absence associated with the most brazen student irresponsibility and results in the greatest consequences.

Many educators view truancy as something much more far reaching than the immediate consequence that missed schooling has on a student’s education. Truancy may indicate more deeply embedded problems with the student, the education they are receiving, or both.

Because of its traditional association with juvenile delinquency, truancy in some schools may result in an ineligibility to graduate or to receive credit for class attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, fines, or summer school.

 

What causes truancy?

 

The reason a student misses school will for different depending on the age and circumstances of each student. Sometimes a student will skip school because they feel unsafe at school or on their way to or from school. Other students may miss school because of family issues, financial demands, substance abuse, or mental health problems.

Factors contributing to truancy commonly stem from three core areas: school, family and community. Innate student characteristics and their experiences within all these areas will have a heavy impact on truancy rates.

 

Bad Influences

 

One of the common causes of truancy and disruptive behavior in children is the influence of friends and peers. The teen’s natural instinct to want to be a part of a larger crowd or group dynamic will take over, even if they are taught better habits. Often times this same dynamic is prevalent in the face of any resistance the child may put forth, prompting teasing or goading the child into truanting.

 

School

 

What is classed as truancy can depend largely on the school’s attitude to the ‘truant’ or their problems. Relationships with teachers, seen as lacking respect/fairness, play a large factor in truancy rates among children. Often times this inability to get along with teachers and/or students will result in disciplinary problems which may lead to suspension, or expulsion.

Of course, being away from the school either voluntarily or at the school’s demand can have an adverse affect on the student’s academic performance, resulting in not being able to keep up with school work, getting poor grades, or even failing. A school may also be remiss in not notifying parents/guardians of absences.

This feeds into the larger school category as a whole, encompassing not only relationships with teachers and issues of fair treatment but also the content and delivery of the curriculum, seen as lacking in relevance and stimulus.

 

Bullying and Cyberbullying

 

Closely related to the issue of a teen’s relationship with school is the matter of bullying. Bullying is a prime component (as well as cyberbullying) in the making of an unsafe school environment; if a teen does not feel safe at school, or on the way to/from school, they are much more likely to become truant.

Bullying occurs for many reasons and it goes beyond the one isolated instance of harassment either because of teachers’ inability to control, or problems arising from the child’s own personality or learning abilities. A parent might say they’re keeping their child off school because they’re being bullied. The school might call it truancy.

 

Personal Matters

 

Individual (personal) factors related to child truancy include: lack of self-esteem/social skills/confidence; poor peer relations; lack of academic ability; special needs; and lack of concentration/self-management skills. Professionals have identified that many chronically truant children had a job, had a family to support, or had trouble managing both school and work, thus forcing them to make a choice between personal life and school.

For sure when a child gets married, gets pregnant and/or becomes a parent the risk of truancy increases. Often times the risky behaviors are further instigated if the child develops or has already developed an alcohol or drug problem.

Family factors that contribute to truancy in students are innately personal in nature. Parentally condoned absence is especially influential, as it reinforces the lack of consequences for irresponsible/unwanted behavior on the part of the child.

Parental attitudes to education are crucial to schools success in keeping children in school; often times a parent’s condonation of truancy (albeit overt or tacit) is construed as the parent’s not valuing education.

Read 5 Benefits of Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens.

Is your teen missing or skipping many of their classes?  Have you tried to talked with them and they are shutting you down? Maybe exhausted your local resources or tried having them speak with your friends or relatives?

If your teen is on the verge of suspension or expulsion and you have reached your wit’s end, please contact us for more information on residential treatment. Learn more about how teen help programs can help your family.