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Wednesday 24th of July 2019

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Can Ohio’s Approach to School Truancy Succeed While Avoiding Justice System Contact?

Tuesday 9th of July 2019 | North America, United States
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
News

Over the past several decades, researchers have studied and debated the complex pathway between school truancy, delinquency and involvement with the adult criminal justice system. While there is no direct link between school truancy and criminal behaviors, truancy is often a symptom of complex issues including concerns around violence, mental health, substance use in the home, and homelessness, in addition to other difficulties that are not easily addressed.

When these underlying issues remain unaddressed, youth are at risk for behavioral health problems and delinquent behaviors, among a host of other negative consequences that can last long into adulthood. Ultimately, the causes and consequences of school truancy are varied and difficult to disentangle and it requires a nuanced and careful policy response.

Currently, many states look to the juvenile justice system to address truancy which may, in and of itself, be criminogenic. Several studies have found that involvement in the juvenile justice system is associated with further juvenile justice and criminal justice system involvement. While the impact of juvenile justice system involvement is most significant when the intervention is intensive and in an out-of-home setting, any type of contact with the system can have a negative impact on an individual. Coupled with some of the complex issues that are at the root of school truancy, contact with the juvenile justice system may exacerbate the problem.

Ohio’s approach

While Ohio remains one of a number of states that have criminal provisions for truancy, the state enacted House Bill 410 (HB 410) in 2016 to allow schools to work with youth and families to address truancy while avoiding unnecessary involvement in the juvenile justice system. HB 410 redefined truancy to consider the number of hours that a student misses rather than days. Once a student accumulates enough hours of school to be considered “habitually truant,” the school district is responsible for working with students and families to address the issue.

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