'Therapeutic Attendance Court' looks to cut truancy

TULSA -- The Tulsa City Council and school districts are teaming up to get to the bottom of truancy.

Councilor Karen Gilbert authored a new ordinance that creates a "Therapeutic Attendance Court." 

It creates a program that is available to every family facing truancy charges in the Jenks, Union and Tulsa districts. 

Counselors in the program will help identify why the students are not getting to school and put them in touch with the resources they need to fix it. 

"Whether it is family counseling or whether it is community service as a family... it all depends on the dynamics of the families the needs of the families," Councilor Gilbert said. 

Families who complete the program will have their truancy fines wiped away.  

The court will be in the municipal system rather than district like it is currently.

She said there is such a backlog of truancy cases in Tulsa that they are not being heard by a judge unless the child is in third grade or below. 

Tulsa Public Schools reports last school year that 20-percent of their students were absent without an excuse for 10-percent of the school year.

"Illness, lack of access to child care, to health care, transportation issues, we have a significant homeless population," Becky Baker, truancy officer at TPS, named off a few of the top reasons their students are truant. 

Jenks Schools found 0.7-percent of their students were truant in 2017-18. 

So far this school year, Union's truancy rate is 0.7-percent. 

The ordinance recommends schools take a more active role in getting kids in class before they reach the level of needing Therapeutic Attendance Court. 

One problem TPS is tackling is that children who live within a mile and a half of campus now have to walk to school because of budget cuts. 

"We are working on ways to combat that with walking buses where PTA volunteers walk the kids to school through the neighborhood," Baker said. 

The council will vote on the ordinance later this month. 

 

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