Truancy Keeps Students From Being Successful
By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

Truancy is a major factor in academic success. Truancy means school-age students are missing out on their education and allowing themselves to fall behind. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Education Division’s School and Community Relations Department (SCRD) has been working hard to help Community parents and guardians monitor their children’s daily school attendance and provide assistance to help students succeed.

For both parents and students, knowing what truancy means as a member of the SRPMIC is important. Attendance officers say that the most common attendance roadblocks are uniforms, misunderstandings of the Code of Ordinances, and per-cap vacations.

SCRD’s mission statement is “to promote understanding and encourage effective communication between the schools, SRPMIC Education, Community parents and students for the purpose of improving school attendance and remove barriers to learning.”

The SCRD currently has four attendance officers who monitor 25 schools serving approximately 1,000+ Community students. The officers make weekly visits to ensure accurate numbers. The goal of the attendance officers is to provide attendance-monitoring services to all Community families with school-age children.

Along with a school-age child comes a responsible adult. Parents and guardians are held accountable for allowing their students to be truant. The Community does not take this lightly, as it believes all Community students should be successful.

Some of the major truancy problems stem from falling behind academically, occasionally missing the school bus, per cap vacations, communication issues between the school and parents, attendance officers are often given a negative image, and parents not utilizing the parent portal.

“[Per cap vacations] do impact the student significantly, especially the elementary students who are out for an extended amount of time. It definitely does impact them negatively at school,” said Miranda Johnson, M.Ed., MPH, School and Community Relations Manager

“I think a lot of the parents are not really using the parent portal. Every parent/guardian can have access to their child’s attendance records and their academic records through the parent portal. That is daily information about [your] student to make sure they are going to school and getting to class on time,” said Johnson. “Contact the school your student is assigned to and they will give the parents/guardian’s access with a username and password.”

Here within Community schools, five tardies (elementary) or five period tardies (junior high/high school) equal one unexcused absence. That might not seem like a huge deal, but over time it does add up. As a parent, you may drop your children off every day at school, but are you checking to make sure they actually attend?

“Another issue we run into is the communication between the parents and the school. There’s a gap. I feel like if parents were just more open to sharing information with the school as to why their child is out would alleviate a lot of the reason why the kid is missing or getting unexcused absences. Communication is very essential,” said Johnson.

Truancy may be a problem, but there are many resources and helpful programs within the Community to help families succeed.

Two resources are Education Counselor Services and Transportation Assistance. Counseling services are available for students who have personal issues at home affecting their class attendance. Transportation is also available for students who have transportation issues. To schedule a ride, call the transportation line at (480) 362-2555. (Transportation is not available after 9 a.m.)

Along with the resources comes a SCRD rewards program where students are awarded for their school attendance. SCRD offers Community students a semester trip or a trip to the student store, where they can buy game boards, movie tickets, toys and more. Past trips have included visits to the Phoenix Zoo, Amazing Jake’s, Big Surf and more.

An Honors Recognition banquet is also held every year for students with perfect attendance for the entire school year and those who have earned academic excellence (A or B average or 3.3 GPA). These students will be recognized as Star Students in front of their families, who will also be invited to the banquet.

When asked what their goals are as attendance officers, each had their own response:

“I would like to see all the students here in Salt River graduate from school and move onto higher education,” said attendance officer Jessica Riena.

“Having more parents aware of our ordinance because some of them don’t know that by taking their children on vacation during school that it affects their attendance. I think they need to be aware that it does affect the children,” said Reba Reyes who has been an attendance officer for seven months now.

“Working with the kids when we do meet with them and listening to some of the issues that they have that are causing them to miss school. Whether it’s referring them to a counselor or helping them find ways to eliminate their barriers to getting to school,” said attendance officer Kathy Toney.

SCRD would also like for the Community to know that they have school supplies program year round for Community students to utilize (must present tribal ID). Students are welcome to pick up needed paper, crayons, markers and other needed school supplies.

For more information about truancy or counseling, or if you need help understanding the Code of Ordinances, call the SCRD mainline at (480) 362-2534 or call one of the attendance officers listed in the sidebar.


Click here to read: The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Code of Ordinances, Chapter 11–Minors, Article XI, Truancy

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