Clark and Cowlitz Truancy Projects
The Truancy Project is collaboration between Clark County Juvenile Justice, Cowlitz County Juvenile Justice, the Courts, Clark and Cowlitz County school districts and Educational Service District 112 in response to Washington State’s Becca Law.
The Becca Law deemed truancy a civil offense, punishable by fines, community service or jail time. Instead, The Truancy Project seeks to intervene with truant youth and their families to provide them a positive way to return to school and increase student academic achievement.
Referral to the Truancy Project
The Becca Law, established in 1995, requires that a student has no more than seven (7) unexcused absences in a month or 10 during a school year. Originally, the law covered 8-18 year old youth but was expanded in July 1999 to include parents of 6 and 7 year olds as well, and in February 2012, the upper age was reduced to 17.
If a student meets this criterion, the school district and/or the student's home school, depending on district policy, is mandated to file a truancy petition with the Juvenile Court. If the student does not return to school or has even one more unexcused absence, the district and/or school building generally refers the student to The Truancy Project.
The Truancy Project relies on several partners for its success. The Clark County Juvenile Justice and the Cowlitz County Juvenile Justice Center play a major role through financial and judicial support. The Juvenile Justice Center staff understand that truancy can be a gateway to delinquency and if not stopped early may result in failure at school, failure at home and failure in society. The largest predictor of dropping out of high school is early truancy. As a result, the Juvenile Justice Center partnership and support is critical to keeping youth in school and out of trouble.
For a number of students, it is not academic pressures or issues that keep them from attending school, but rather, life issues. The Truancy Project staff assist in helping students deal with wide-ranging family issues, physical or mental health concerns, addiction or lack of stability. The staff also looks for the best academic fit for the student to ensure the best possible success.
All school districts in Clark and Cowlitz Counties participate in the Truancy Project. Each of these schools offers support to the Truancy Project staff as they work to keep kids in school.