The Truancy Project believes that youth who are engaged in their community and with positive, supportive adults will do better in school overall.
Clark and Cowlitz Truancy Projects
The Truancy Project is collaboration between Clark County Juvenile Justice, Cowlitz County Juvenile Justice, the Courts, Clark and Cowlitz County school districts and Educational Service District 112 in response to Washington State’s Becca Law. The Becca Law deemed truancy a civil offense, punishable by fines, community service or jail time. Instead, The Truancy Project seeks to intervene with truant youth and their families to provide them a positive way to return to school and increase student academic achievement.
The Truancy Project relies on several partners for its success. The Clark County Juvenile Justice and the Cowlitz County Juvenile Justice Center play a major role through financial and judicial support. The Juvenile Justice Center staff understand that truancy can be a gateway to delinquency and if not stopped early may result in failure at school, failure at home and failure in society. The largest predictor of dropping out of high school is early truancy. As a result, the Juvenile Justice Center partnership and support is critical to keeping youth in school and out of trouble.
For a number of students, it is not academic pressures or issues that keep them from attending school, but rather, life issues. The Truancy Project staff assist in helping students deal with wide-ranging family issues, physical or mental health concerns, addiction or lack of stability. The staff also looks for the best academic fit for the student to ensure the best possible success.
How it Works
How the Truancy Project Works
Referral to the Truancy Project
The Becca Law, established in 1995, requires that a student has no more than seven (7) unexcused absences in a month or 10 during a school year. Originally, the law covered 8-18 year old youth but was expanded in July 1999 to include parents of 6 and 7 year olds as well, and in February 2012, the upper age was reduced to 17.
If a student meets this criterion, the school district and/or the student’s home school, depending on district policy, is mandated to file a truancy petition with the Juvenile Court. If the student does not return to school or has even one more unexcused absence, the district and/or school building generally refers the student to The Truancy Project.
After the orientation, Truancy Project Specialists will begin working individually with the youth. This may include meetings with the youth, parents, teachers or school counselors, visits to the youth’s home and activities and events hosted by the Truancy Project staff. We may recommend academic support through tutoring, changing schools, or in severe cases, completing an adult diploma or a GED instead of a high school diploma. We may also recommend family or individual counseling and enrolling in support programs such as the Connect 2 Careers, Job Corps, or Open Doors.
If youth continue to miss school and the efforts made to intervene are unsuccessful, then we may require that the youth attend a Community Truancy Board meeting. The Truancy Boards are made up of community volunteers who will meet with the youth and his/her parents to discuss the continuing problems. This Board will help the youth and parents make further decisions about the youth’s future. Generally, the Board members, the youth and the parents sign contracts at the end of the meeting indicating their agreement on a specific course of action. If any party fails to uphold their part of the contract, the Juvenile Court may choose to intervene.
Clark County Truancy Project FAQ
Q: What is the BECCA Law?
The BECCA Bill became a law in Washington State in 1995. The law is named after a Washington youth named Rebecca “Becca” Hedman. Rebecca was a student in a Washington state school. Rebecca began skipping school, dropped out and fell into an unhealthy lifestyle. Her parents had no idea she was not attending school and communication was very poor between the school and the parents of Rebecca. Subsequently, Rebecca ran away and was murdered. The BECCA law was developed at the urging of Rebecca’s parents in an effort to prevent other students from becoming truant without adequate parental notification. Now, there are specific steps schools must take from interaction with parents to court sanctions. All of these steps are designed to keep youth attending school until age 18 or until they have completed their education. For more detail information, go to the Clark County Juvenile Court Truancy website.
Q: What is the process of the Clark County Truancy Project?
The Clark County Truancy Project began operation at the beginning of the 1996-97 school year. Clark County School Districts, the Clark County Juvenile Court and Educational Service District 112 came together, with initial funding also from Governors Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee (GJJAC), to help students solve truancy issues, rather than serve time in juvenile detention. Once a school’s attendance officer files a petition for court intervention – when a student receives seven unexcused absences in a month, or ten unexcused absences during the school year- the school then may request that the student be referred to the Truancy Project upon their next unexcused absence. The Truancy Project aims to reduce truancy by providing a countywide system of intervention and prevention services for school aged students designed to reinforce individual responsibility and personal growth. The project currently receives funding support from The Clark County Juvenile Court and the Clark County School Districts
Q: What are some objectives the Truancy Project pursues?
Using a comprehensive computerized tracking system that accurately provides statistical information regarding the attendance progress of students; it is easy to work toward setting achievable goals with the student. The Truancy Project Specialists coordinate resources of schools, community agencies and juvenile courts to provide appropriate intervention and assistance programs for youth and their families. The main objective is to keep youth in school and assist them in receiving their education.
Q: How does a student obtain a positive release from the Truancy Project?
A student can be released from the Truancy Project if they have successfully completed the Clark County Truancy Project by no longer being in violation of the BECCA law, and the student has made significant progress towards appropriate attendance and educational progress. If this is met, then the student will be released with a positive exit.
Q: So what are ways to be discharged with a negative exit?
A student can earn a negative exit by refusing to participate in the Truancy Project, not fulfill his or her contractual agreement with the Clark County Truancy Board or not improve his or her attendance pattern over a period of time as determined by the Truancy Project Specialist. When there is a negative exit, the student is referred back to juvenile court and may serve time in juvenile detention and the parent/guardian can be fined $25 for each day the student was absent in the school year.
Q: Will a student go straight to court if they are noncompliant?
No. Once it is determined by the Project Specialist that a student is not making, or attempting to make progress, the student is invited to appear in front of a Community Truancy Board. The Truancy Board consists of volunteers from throughout Clark County, a school district representative and Truancy Project staff. The student will have a chance to explain his or her continued attendance issues and will then work with the Board to develop an attendance agreement (contract). The student may be scheduled for a review Board at that time. Truancy Project Specialists follow up on the students’ progress and present the Board with updated information at the next meeting. The attendance agreement also is part of the filings if the student is returned to court.
Q: What can the Truancy Project Specialist offer students outside the project?
Truancy Project Specialists can offer numerous resources and referrals to each student. Tutoring, academic credit recovery, mentoring, mental health services, drug and alcohol assessment/ treatment, volunteer programs and work experience are just a few options.
Q: How do I contact the Clark County Truancy Project?
Students are referred to the Truancy Project by their school or school district representatives. To find out about how attendance is tracked and monitored for students, contact the students’ school attendance office. To find out more about the Clark County Truancy Project, such as how to volunteer to serve on a Community Truancy Board, contact ESD112 at (360) 952-3448.
Community Truancy Boards
Clark County Truancy Boards are usually located at the specific school district administrative office where your student attends. They typically occur twice a month between the hours of 3:30pm and 6pm.
If you have any questions about your specific truancy board time and date, please contact the Truancy Project Specialist that works with your school district.
The Cowlitz County Truancy Board Workshop currently takes place at Kelso High School the first Tuesday and third Tuesday of each month. Contact your Truancy Project Specialist for more information.
We are always seeking volunteers for our Community Truancy Boards; if you are interested please contact the Truancy Project at (360) 952-3448.
Links to Services
Other Useful Links
Truancy Project Contacts
Clark Truancy Specialists
Cowlitz Truancy Specialists
Prevention Programs & Grants
Programs/Grants administered by Prevention and Youth Services include: