Parenting Tips: The Dangers of Your Teen Becoming Truant

Skipping School is Not Innocent Behavior, It Can Lead to Bigger Troubles

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Truancy is an unexcused absence from school. While the majority of high school students do not have issues attending class regularly, parents should be aware of the dangers of a teenager who frequently skips school and becomes truant.

Truancy May Be the First Sign of Trouble

Truancy, according to the U.S. Department of Education, is the first sign of trouble; the first indicator that a young person is giving up and losing his or her way.

When young people start skipping school, they are telling their parents, school officials, and the community at large that they are in trouble. They need our help if they are to keep moving forward in life.

Research data tells us that students who become truant have a higher chance of dropping out of school. By doing this, they put themselves at a long-term disadvantage in becoming productive citizens.

  • High school dropouts, for example, are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates.
  • Historically, high school dropouts are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as high school graduates.
  • High school dropouts who are employed earn much lower salaries.

In short, students who become truant and eventually drop out of high school often set themselves up for a life of struggle.

Truancy Statistics

While no national data on the extent of truancy exists, we know that in some cities unexcused absences can number in the thousands each day.

Here are some statistics that have been gathered:

  • Studies have shown that two-thirds of male juveniles arrested while truant tested positive for drug use.
  • According to one confidential survey, nearly 1-in-10 15-year-olds were truant at least once a week.
  • During a 2003 sample period in Miami, more than 71% of 13 to 16 year-olds prosecuted for criminal violations had been truant.
  • In Minneapolis, daytime crime dropped 68 percent after police began citing truant students.
  • In San Diego, 44 percent of violent juvenile crime occurs between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
  • In Pittsburgh, approximately 3,500 students or 12 percent of the pupil population is absent each day and about 70 percent of these absences are unexcused.
  • In Philadelphia, approximately 2,500 students a day are absent without an excuse.
  • In Milwaukee, on any given school day, there are approximately 4,000 unexcused absences.

How to Prevent Truancy

Parents can be proactive about preventing truancy. 

  • Be involved with your teen's school. Get to know their teachers and the school administrators by attending Parent's Night and other school functions. Volunteer to help where you can. Schools are always looking for parent's help with chaperoning dances and field trips or running the concession stand at sporting events. The more involved you are in your teen's school, the less likely they are to try and get away with skipping class.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your teen about their school environment. We all need to blow off steam. Allow them to vent to you if they need to about a teacher, a certain class, etc. If there seems to be a major problem, work with the school and the teacher to find an answer.
  • Let your teenager know the consequences. Skipping class should not be forgotten or brushed off as 'normal' teen behavior. Find out what your local laws are for truancy, and if need be, have your teen talk to a local truant officer. Sometimes teens will listen better when the warnings come from someone other than their parents.
  • If truancy becomes a problem, set up an Action Plan. Write down all of your expectations, the limits, and the consequences.

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