Truancy Prevention & Intervention

Reducing Truancy in San Francisco

Nearly 5,000 San Francisco students are habitually or chronically truant each year, with over 40 percent in elementary school. In San Francisco, 94% of homicide victims under age 25 are high school dropouts.  The links between truancy and crime are clear. In 2006, the District Attorney’s office partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District to reduce truancy, resulting in a specialized Truancy Court that combines court monitoring with family services. The School District and the Department of Children and Family Services are on hand to resolve underlying issues such as unstable housing, substance abuse, or neglect. Since the program began, the number of chronically truant students in SFUSD has declined by 37%.

Truancy Court

Truancy Court is designed for students whose attendance has not improved despite multiple interventions and offers of support. Now five years into the District Attorney’s Truancy Initiative, in partnership with the San Francisco Superior Court, San Francisco Unified School District, the Truancy Assessment and Resource Center (TARC), Human Services Agency and other public and community-based agencies, operates the collaborative Truancy Court model. Through this model, parents and students are encouraged to take accountability for their truancy and to work on improving attendance. Supportive services are provided such as case management, therapeutic referrals, and transportation assistance. District Attorney Representatives travel to City schools to speak with families who are struggling with truancy, as well as, participate on the school district’s Student Attendance Review Board – which meets with truant students and their families to resolve truancy prior to prosecution. In 2012, the District Attorney’s Office took 40 cases to truancy court but met with over 550 families to explain attendance laws and encourage them to get help to address their truancy.

Truancy Intervention Program

Research shows that one of the hardest transitions for truant students is the leap from middle school to high school. Students whose eighth grade attendance was below 85% are most likely to become high school dropouts.

In Fall of 2011, the District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with Burton High School and the Truancy Assessment and Resource Center (TARC), launched its first truancy intervention program to help students start strong in high school. Now in its second year, the District Attorney’s Office funds two case managers at Burton High School who work closely with incoming ninth graders who had poor attendance and grades in middle school. Case managers reach out to these students at the start of the school year and support them in their transition to ninth grade.

Building on the success of the Burton High School model, in the Fall of 2013, the District Attorney’s Office launched a truancy intervention program at Ida B. Wells Continuation High School, an alternative school whose mission is to work with chronically truant students and their families. The District Attorney’s Office funds a TARC Case Manager to work with staff to develop a multifaceted truancy intervention strategy and provide intensive support to 20 to 25 students.

In the two years since the Burton High Truancy Prevention Program was launched, there has been an improvement in grades and attendance in participating students’ sophomore year. Students are also reporting feeling more connected to adults and to their school community.

To find out more about our initiative, contact Marc Massarweh: marc.massarweh@sfgov.org

For assistance keeping your kid(s) in school, call the school district's Truancy Hotline: (415) 701-STAY.