Educators and City Leaders Address Community Truancy Issue

The Student Attendance Review Board considers a student to be truant after missing seven class periods.

DULUTH, Minn. – Students skipping class or not going to school at all is something Duluth educators and community leaders want to end.

With the start of the school year only weeks away a conversation about truancy is the first step in making it happen.

School may be out, but the session on keeping students in the classroom is in.

At a special meeting Tuesday morning the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, along with the Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) and educators were all learning ways to prevent truancy.

“We work with other programs in the city to come up with a way to show that we care about them and we need to keep them in school,” said St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin.

Rubin says it’s something he sees too often.

One target group is kids who are at risk of dropping out.

Rubin believes it’s necessary to get involved early before it’s too late.

“We love them engaged, but we at least need them in school,” said Rubin. “So we have an opportunity to connect with them.”

The SARB considers a student to be truant after missing seven class periods.

“We either help with the mediation or at least, we’re aware with the mediator or at least we’re aware what’s going on,” saidSt. Louis County Attorney Amy Lukasavitz. “If the mediation is not successful then that’s when we look at other alternatives.”

Dawn Buck works at Harbor City International school and is on the attendance review board.

This meeting was helpful to her for working on solutions to motivate students to go to school.

“If students aren’t attending we can reach out to Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota for attendance contracts for diversion, for mediation services.”

The consequences for students not going to class vary.

It can result in out of home placement and in some cases a fine.

“We’re aware with the mediation or at least we’re aware that that’s going on,” said Lukasavitz. “If the mediation is not successful then that’s when we look at other alternatives”

Rubin says bringing students to court is the last resort.

Another resource available in Duluth is Men as Peacemakers.

Through its Restorative Justice Program the organization helps kids in the community make healthy choices.

“Just making sure they’re accountable for their past actions,” said Men as Peacemakers Restorative Practice Program Coordinator Nathan Travis Kesti. “They talk to the staff. They talk to the school, really show that they’re willing to change their behavior.”

During the last school year the student attendance review board had 126 referrals and out those 44 were brought to court.

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