TRUANCY PREVENTION IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: IS IT EFFECTIVE OR IS IT JUST ANOTHER DISCRETIONARY PRACTICE FOR SCHOOLS TO ADMINISTER SUSPENSIONS?
Truancy prevention in the District of Columbia was an issue taken up after a tragic event among teenagers that resulted in multiple deaths and due to behavior related to truancy. The law was finally enacted in D.C. in 2013. Truancy, or an unexcused absence, was rampant with over 4,000 D.C. students missing 10-20 school days in 2012, without having a valid excuse. The law places accountability with the home of the student, with consequences resulting in fines and referrals to a Student Support Team or Court Social Services. This gives schools alternative tools in keeping students in the class for instruction and deter youth violence as a result. However, students who are chronically absent and chronically disruptive maybe more inclined to receive school administered suspensions. As such, those students would receive little classroom instruction or school time. Using pooled cross sectional data collected from oversight hearings from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression models, this paper gives insight on how the truancy prevention law in D.C. has impacted suspensions subsequently, before and after the law was enacted. The findings of this analysis suggest that the law has none or minimal impact on suspensions, but has reduced the rate of unexcused absences occurring since the law’s implementation. Thus, D.C. policymakers would be advised to consider further studies, including consistent data collection, to reform the law to better assist schools in reducing suspensions for those students who are both chronically disruptive and chronically absent and thereby maximize class time for those students.