Wednesday, October 17 , 2018, 6:26 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

County Truancy Program Gets Back Into Local Schools

Deputy district attorney spearheads a revived version of the program to help districts with student absence issues

School districts throughout Santa Barbara County are in the process of deciding how to take the reins of a new program meant to crack down on truancy.

Some are further along than others, according to Deputy District Attorney David Chen.

Truancy, which refers to a student having more than three unexcused absences, has increased significantly since a countywide program was eliminated in 2008 due to budget cuts, according to a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report.

The jump was nearly 48 percent.

In an effort to rearm schools, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors authorized funds to bring a version of that program back to schools.

And that’s where Chen comes in.

He was hired last summer to spearhead a revived version of the program, with a budget about one-fifth the size that was devoted to the former Truancy Intervention and Parent Accountability Program.

“The difficulty here is that there’s more responsibility shifted down to schools now,” Chen told Noozhawk. “They have all these materials; it’s just how to present it.”

Chen has been working with district superintendents to figure out time tables for when to send “warn and concern” letters to parents and set up formal meetings with school administrators based on a student’s number of unexcused absences.

When school-based intervention processes fail and truancy continues, schools are supposed to contact the District Attorney’s Office to participate in meetings of the Truancy Mediation Team or School Attendance Review Board.

Some school districts, such as Lompoc Unified and those in the Santa Ynez Valley, have operated their own systems in the county program’s absence.

Others still need to work out some kinks, Chen said. Those especially include the larger school districts in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

Art Diaz, director of pupil services at Lompoc Unified, said the district takes meticulous care of attendance through its Attention2Attendance software, which was implemented in January.

“We actually never stopped,” Diaz said of conducting SARB panels. “That’s the hurdle all other districts will have to address.”

Diaz said the biggest change Lompoc sees with the new program is an added SARB follow-up step, which now includes Chen.

So far, Chen has talked to several students who were referred to him by parents or family members.

Those interventions have mainly been on the South Coast, with a handful in Lompoc.

Chen said school districts have been very receptive to his outreach.

A big part of the job, Chen said, is making people aware that the program is back and will hopefully be around a while.

“I just kind of have to walk them through the steps,” Chen said. “We’re moving forward.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.