H-SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

Sep 30, 2013 7:38 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

San Luis Obispo County elementary school students some of the most truant in state

A state report says San Luis Obispo County elementary school students are some of the most truant in California. The state attorney general is calling it a crisis across the entire state.

More than 19,900 students enrolled in elementary school in San Luis Obispo County last year and of those, more than 5,700 students or 30% had truancies.

"The truancy bar in California is very high," says San Luis Obispo County Superintendent Dr. Julian Crocker.

He says that high bar makes it very easy for even good students to be declared truant.

It's defined as those who are absent or tardy more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse three times in a school year. Those absent for 10% of the year are considered chronically truant and at a high risk of academic failure.

"The issue is, if you're not in school, it's very difficult for us to provide instructions. (It's) not possible. You can't teach an empty chair," said Dr. Crocker.

According to the report, 20% of elementary school students statewide had truancies, but even more critical is the amount of money lost when students don't show up.

Certain districts within the county receive state education money based on attendance.

"Any days they are not here or they are on an unexcused absence then there's a daily deduction roughly around $35 a day," said Dr. Crocker.

With more than 5,700 students out of class at least three days last year, that's nearly $600,000 gone that could go to creating more programs and even hiring more teachers.

So why are kids missing school? Dr. Crocker says there are a number of reasons. It could be anything from bullying to going on an extra-long vacation with family, to just plain ditching school.

He says the only valid excuse for missing school is for medical reasons or a death in the family, leaving a wide range of reasons for being declared truant.

He says the answer is parent involvement with their students' education, making sure they are there ready to learn every day.

Interest in the issue was sparked when studies found a disproportionate number of criminals and crime victims were high school dropouts whose academic failure began much earlier when truancy issues first arise in elementary school.

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