Truancy can be described as unauthorized absenteeism from school that exceeds the number of times authorized by state law. The state specifies the age at which a child should start going to school, lawfully quit school, and the number of unauthorized absenteeism. Trujillo (2005) explains that truancy is not a new phenomenon, but a habit that begun decades ago. The Laws to manage school attendance were first established by Massachusetts as early as 1852 in a bid to stop child labor. By 1918, every state had adopted some form of school attendance law, but they could hardly be described as successful since they mostly relied on segregating or pushing out affected students instead of tackling the causes of truancy as well as developing solutions to prevent it (Trujillo, 2005).
Although research on truancy is still in its infancy, a number of individual, family, school, and community-related issues have been identified as the main causes of truancy. School related issues include poor school attendance policies, ineffective methods of keeping records, failure to report absenteeism cases to the concerned parents, unfavorable school environment, and poor climate in schools, as well as poor relationships between teachers and students. In addition, the neglect of special education for special students also has contributed to the high cases of truancy. Family and community factors that contribute to truancy include peer pressure, especially for younger students who mostly end up being truant to fit in financial, medical and other specific aspects that may force the student to remain at home. A disorganized family structure where the parents may not believe in the education system, or plain ignorance might also have a positive contribution towards truancy. In addition, premarital sex which leads to teen pregnancy and eventually unplanned parenthood, poor support from family in terms of educational goals, community violence around the home, school, or both, and cultural beliefs towards education are fundamental factors that support truancy. Individual factors that may lead to truancy include lack of ambition in education, poor performances in school, low level of attachment to the school, disagreements with other students, low self-esteem, special health needs, especially mentally, as well as alcohol, drug, and substance abuse (Development service group, 2010).
Truancy has been known to have negative social effects in the society. As Trujillo (2005) puts it, truancy has often been referred to as “gateway crime” and has been linked to most offenses among the youth as well as a significant level of improper behavior in adulthood, including an increased tendency towards violence. In fact, adults who were truant in their teenage days are more likely to experience poor general and mental health complications, low-paying jobs, and a high probability of living in poverty. Therefore, the condition makes them rely more on welfare support compared to people who were not truant in their early days.
The National Dropout Prevention Centre/network (NDPC/N) has developed several multidimensional solutions to truancy considering the dynamic nature of the condition. They are divided into various categories, including the school and community perspective, early interventions, and basic core strategies (Smink & Reimer, 2005). In the school and community perspective, it is evident that students are also part of it, and they should also be part of it to ensure strong business and community support. First of the three critical strategies, in this category, is systemic renewal, which advocates for a progressive process of revisiting goals and objectives in relation to school policies and practices as they affect multiple groups of students. The second one is the collaboration between the school and community and finally is the aspect of providing a safe learning environment.
On early interventions, studies show that the early identification of truancy cases is crucial in transforming truant students before they are affected to greater lengths. The strategies to ensure this is implemented include engaging the families involved, provision of early childhood education, and early literacy development, which involves sharpening the reading and writing skills.
Basic core strategies to prevent truancy, in this case, refers to student-centered approaches, which include mentoring and tutoring students from an early age, service learning, which bridges academic learning with community service work, alternative schooling, which presents options to students who might drop out of school. Finally, there is the implementation of after-school programs, which will keep the students busy in their free time preventing them from distractions such as drug abuse.
Finally, it is worth noting that how studies are conducted in classrooms is a major determinant of truancy cases. School-based policies that may reduce truancy include professional development, especially for students who do not perform well academically. In essence, the active learning, which basically entails active participation while learning, use of technology, and individualized education, would provide a lot of flexibility in learning, therefore, minimize cases of truancy.