School Officials Blamed for not Taking Truancy More Seriously
Truancy in the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system is a serious issue that has spiraled out of control – particularly when it comes to the end results for many black male students.
Their truancy numbers are significantly higher in comparison to other student populations, and instead of schools officials insisting upon counseling or detention to deter their behavior, they're relying on suspensions, expulsions, and law enforcement to deal with the problem. Those actions, in effect, often put young black males on the school-to-prison pipeline.
"The challenge of going to school is two-fold," Umar Abdullah Johnson, Ph.D., said during a recent appearance on "UDC Forum," a locally-televised outreach project of the University of the District of Columbia. "The first aspect of the problem relates to the school itself. Public education was not designed to successfully prepare African-American boys for a life of success," said Johnson, a certified school psychologist and author of Psycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education and ADHD Wars against Black Boys. "Public education, as it is today, largely functions to prepare our boys for a life of prison and incarceration."
Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, 43, said in November during an anti-truancy hearing with members of the D.C.Council, that chronic-absenteeism has reached the crisis point, with more than 40 percent of students at Anacostia, Roosevelt, Ballou and Spingarn high schools having missed at least 30 days from classes in 2011 due to unexcused absences.
Students are generally classified as truant after missing 15 days of unexcused absences.
Since truancy rates impact graduation rates, Henderson has been under increasing pressure to develop initiatives that counter truancy in order to ensure that three-fourths of all District students graduate on time by 2017.