Milton cracking down on truancy

Dr. Cathy Keegan

MILTON — With the number of Milton Area School District students to log three or more unlawful absences this school year topping 400, the district is continuing to step up its efforts to crack down on truancy.

Superintendent Dr. Cathy Keegan said when a student reaches three unlawful absences a school counselor schedules a meeting with parents to develop a Student Attendance Improvement Plan (SAIP).

The meeting includes the student’s parents or caregivers, as well as a guidance counselor and principal.

“The purpose of this written plan is to determine the cause of the unlawful absences and problem solve solutions to improve attendance,” Keegan said.

As of Friday, Feb. 12, Keegan said there have been 403 SAIPs written for truant students in the district this school year.

She said there are 291 students who have been classified as habitually truant, meaning they have reached more than six unlawful absences.

After the seventh unlawful absence, Keegan said a Parental Truancy Awareness Program meeting is held with Children and Youth Services (CYS).

“A juvenile probation officer working with CYS leads these meetings with the parent and begins conducting home visits,” she said.

With the seventh unlawful absence, she said charges are filed with the district magistrate.

Keegan also outlined the procedures which the district follows while tracking unlawful absences.

“The school district has a daily electronic communication system to notify parents when a student is not present in school,” Keegan explained. “Parents must provide a written excuse for a school day in a timely manner or the day remains categorized as an unlawful absence from school.”

She noted that parents are able to view how their child’s absences are recorded through Sapphire, the school’s online portal.

For each unlawful absence, Keegan said a letter is issued to parents within 10 days of that absence.

For students who reach six unlawful absences, she said phone and home visits are conducted to check on the wellness of the child.

“The home visits may be conducted by many different school district personnel, including the guidance counselor, home and school visitor, social worker, school resource officer and dean of students,” Keegan said.

“At times, return visits occur to provide the house with food, toiletries, clothing and technology equipment,” Keegan said. “The district has conducted over 500 (home) visits this school year.”

In addition to the time staff invest in home visits, she also noted the time which is consumed once charges are filed through the district magistrate.

“On average, each referral to the district magistrate can take one to two hours of administrative time, from organizing documents to making the referral to attending hearings,” Keegan said.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

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