Attendance in Action: The Impact of Truancy Officers
School attendance has become a strong predictor of outcomes: poor attendance can lead to below proficient reading skills, quickly impact grades, and as early as 6th grade is the leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school. With education on the line, a concerted effort is being made to keep kids in school by removing any barriers to success starting with attendance. As over 50 million children prepare to attend K – 12 schools in 2018 in the US.
Many schools are now employing Truancy Officers to do just that. Also known as School Resource Officers, they not only address attendance issues and interpersonal difficulties on campus but also spend their time visiting and following up with chronically absent students and their families to help ensure that students have unhindered access to their education. They make frequent home visits and try to ascertain what might be keeping students from getting to and staying in school.
From Home Room to House Calls
In order to discern why a student is absent, Truancy Officers are often the first touchpoint to discover unfortunate circumstances. From abusive households to a lack of parental support, the potential reasons run the gamut. It is the Officers’ job to help find a solution and the result can sometimes put them in precarious situations.
There is always tremendous risk when visiting an unknown home. From the environmental risks related to poor weather, difficult parking conditions, and aggressive animals, to the social risk of verbal and physical assault posed by upset family members and students. A home visit can be quite emotional and has the potential to quickly escalate in aggression as students and their parents may become defensive.
In addition to home visits, the officers frequently face danger on school grounds as the first to respond to on-campus incidents. Abusive language and violent behavior frequently put Truancy Officers in difficult and dangerous situations. One altercation in South Carolina resulted in an Horry Country Schools Officer being hospitalized for head wounds after stepping into a fight between two students. Another in Killeen, TX found an officer hospitalized from injuries resulting from a student attack after trying to leave school grounds.
Purpose Meets Protection
This, of course, begs the question: while they work to protect and support students, what protocol is in place to protect them? There is an inherent need for additional safety measures in such high-risk jobs that, especially in schools, is now being met frequently with panic buttons and personal safety devices. The ability to press a button and quickly receive back-up or emergency services can mean all the difference when tensions rise and violence becomes a reality. The SoloProtect ID takes this protection even further with the discreet form factor of an ID badge. Not only does it present as simply part of a uniform, but is also worn on your person at all times putting help at hand the moment it’s needed. When a “Red Alert” is activated, the SoloProtect Monitoring Center is listening and determining what the right escalation is for that event whether that be sending additional staff members for support, or dispatching authorities. After an incident, there is audio evidence allowing for clear and easy review in the case that legal action is taken.
While the risk for School Resource Officers is certainly high, so is the reward and many school districts have found their addition to be necessary and valuable with frequent reports of new hires preceding the upcoming school year. In schools, it’s the relationships that really matter, and they work hard to develop them with the student body. Not only are they able to mitigate the ever-present risk of violence, abuse, and truancy, but also to help navigate issues like interpersonal relationships, bullying, drug abuse, the promotion of good behavior in school settings and school safety. Equipping Truancy Officers with additional safety measures like panic buttons and personal safety devices allows them to do the job with peace of mind and a tangible source of support. Reach out to us to learn more about the SoloProtect ID and how it can help keep your staff and students safe.