Where Have All the Data Gone?

Is Richmond Hiding Its Egregious Truancy Problem?

Richmond has a longstanding and ugly problem with truancy.

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Virginia law is perfectly clear as to what Richmond must do about truancy: Schools are required to notify the parents of any unexcused absence.  After the fifth such absence, “[t]he school principal or his designee or the attendance officer, the pupil, and the pupil’s parent shall jointly develop a plan to resolve the pupil’s nonattendance.  Such plan shall include documentation of the reasons for the pupil’s nonattendance.”  After a further (sixth) absence, the school must schedule an attendance conference with the parents.  After a further (seventh) absence, the school division must either prosecute the parents or file a Child in Need of Services/Supervision petition.

For years, Richmond largely ignored these requirements.  Indeed, Richmond only counted ten-absence truancies (three beyond the required filing of a court action) and publicly stated that, upon the tenth absence, it sent a letter to the parents. 

Following some publicity regarding its lawless behavior, Richmond began to schedule more of the required conferences but the number of court actions remained pitifully (and unlawfully) small.

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Note those numbers, please: In 2014, Richmond was required by law to file somewhere between 2,254 and 3,864 court actions to deal with truant students; they filed only 291 (13% of 2,254, <13% of the required number).

VDOE reports that Richmond held 6,946 conferences (!) in 2015.

On Feb. 24, I emailed our Superintendent and my district School Board member to inquire about the disappearance of the SAT and dropout data from the RPS Web site.  They have not favored me with a reply.  Today I noticed that the truancy data also are missing in action.  Looks like it’s time for a FOIA demand.

 

P.S.: To its credit, Richmond has at least published some truancy data.  The State Board of Education deliberately abides by its failure to even collect data by which it might perform its statutory duty to “see that the [mandatory attendance laws] are properly enforced throughout the Commonwealth.”