June 1, 2023

Three Steps to a More Restorative Truancy Practice

Just like chronic absenteeism, truancy remains a challenge for many districts, affecting students’ academic progress and overall well-being. Historically, truancy has been addressed with a punitive approach that often fails to address the root causes of missed school days and even exacerbates the problem. As a forward-thinking educator, you’re probably already  embracing restorative truancy practices as a more effective approach. Read on for three crucial steps towards a more holistic truancy practice that will help repair harm, build relationships, and foster a sense of belonging across your school community.

Step 1: Establish a Restorative Mindset

Implementing restorative truancy processes requires all team members to adopt a restorative mindset. This means shifting away from punitive tones and embracing a more empathetic, inclusive, and relationship-based approach. By recognizing that truancy is often a symptom of more complex issues, such as socioeconomic or emotional challenges, educators can approach families with compassion and seek to address the underlying causes rather than punishing the behavior.

What can districts do to establish a restorative mindset? 

  1. Provide comprehensive training: Professional development opportunities that educate staff on communication skills, conflict resolution, and trauma-informed approaches can go a long way in equipping educators with the tools to build trusting relationships with students and their families.
  2. Foster a supportive school culture: Create a positive and inclusive school environment that values each student's unique contributions and strengths. This includes implementing restorative practices that encourage open dialogue, problem-solving, and community building.

Step 2: Meaningful Collaboration with Students, Families, and Community Partners

Engaging students, families, and community partners in the truancy process can help educators identify and address the root causes of truancy more comprehensively.

Collaborative initiatives include:

  1. Empower student voice: Actively seek student input and involve them in decision-making so that they feel that their perspectives are valued. Conduct regular check-ins to understand their challenges and needs and co-create motivating strategies that assure them that school is an important place to be.
  2. Establish strong family-school partnerships: Provide regular family communication and opportunities for dialogue, aiming to understand family dynamics and challenges that may contribute to truancy. Take a good look at the truancy notices you’re currently using. If they are leveraging a more legalistic and punitive tone, they could be derailing your relationship-building efforts.  
  3. Leverage community resources: Establish partnerships with community organizations, social services, mental health professionals to provide additional support and resources to address the underlying causes of truancy and chronic absenteeism. Collaborate to develop interventions, referral systems, and wraparound services that holistically support students' needs.

Step 3: Implement Targeted Interventions and Ongoing Support

Restorative truancy processes require a range of targeted interventions and ongoing support to address the specific needs of truant students. This may involve creating individualized plans, connecting students and families to resources, and providing ongoing support for sustained attendance.

Key actions include:

  1. Conduct comprehensive assessments: Identify and understand the unique circumstances contributing to truancy through a barrier assessment that can help determine any underlying social, emotional, or academic challenges that need to be addressed.
  2. Develop personalized action plans: Collaboratively create individualized plans with students, families, and relevant stakeholders that address the identified needs, establish clear goals, and outline strategies to support reengagement. Action plans should be attainable and continuously reviewed and adjusted as needed.
  3. Provide ongoing support and monitoring: Offer consistent support through counseling, mentoring, tutoring, and other targeted interventions. Celebrate successes and provide positive reinforcement to motivate continued attendance and engagement.

A restorative truancy process rooted in empathy and collaboration can lead to positive outcomes for students, families, and the entire school community. By nurturing a restorative mindset, fostering collaboration among stakeholders, and providing targeted interventions and ongoing support, educators can create a more inclusive and supportive environment that helps students overcome the barriers to attendance and stay on track for success. 

Are you looking for a family-centered truancy solution that helps free up time for effective relationship-building while staying in compliance with state guidelines? Check out the new Truancy Support

Getting students on track starts with attendance. We can help.