Truancy by School

The Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful thing.  For example, it’s beginning to pry loose some of the data that underlie Richmond’s appalling truancy rate.

Let’s start with the numbers of six-absence conferences (required by Va. Code § 22.1-258) by school for 2016.

Note: The statute also requires an attendance plan after the fifth absence and either a prosecution of the parents or a CHINS petition after the seventh, but RPS doesn’t keep records of those, they say.


  • These are RPS counts.  I have no way to verify the accuracy of these numbers.
  • RPS withheld the data in a number of cases, presumably following the VDOE practice of suppressing the information when fewer than ten students fall into a category.  In the graphs below, I’ve reported those cases as “5” but you should understand that the actual number in each case could be anywhere from one to nine.
  • Richmond’s relationship with § 22.1-258 has been more marked by violation of the statute than by compliance.  In line with that, many of these data (especially, most of the 5’s) are obviously bogus.

First the elementary schools.


I could believe the Broad Rock and Woodville numbers.  Perhaps Munford (Remember, the number there could be anything from 1 to 9).  Many of the others, no.

These schools come in different sizes so even the believable data need to be read in light of the enrollments.  Here, then, are the same numbers (with the 5’s omitted), expressed as percentages of the Fall enrollments.


You may have thought that our truancy problem mostly started in middle school.  I know I did.  Even if we overlook the gross statutory violations implied in these data, it’s clear that I was wrong.

Turning to those middle schools, the people at AP Hill and, probably, Brown have to be violating § 22.1-258 wholesale:


We have enough data here to look at the variation by grade for the four schools that might actually be trying to obey the law.


These data won’t tell us whether the folks at Boushall have a more serious truancy problem or whether they’re doing a better job of meeting the statutory mandate.  In any case, and assuming for a moment that these remaining numbers are somewhere near valid, the best rate of six absence (or more) truancies is the 18% in the 7th grade at Henderson and the worst is the 51% rate in the 8th grade at Boushall.

We also have high schools.


I’m almost ready to believe those numbers.  Here they are as percentages by grade (Open and Community numbers are suppressed for some grades so I’ve left both of those schools off).


You read that correctly: The twelfth grade rates range from 50% at Huguenot to 72% at Armstrong.


I’m waiting on some further data that may give a measure of truancies in excess of six days.  The list I now have is a 705 page pdf that cannot be read into the computer.  A quick look at <10% of that list shows half a dozen kids with more than 100 unexcused absences(!!), with the “leader” at 117.  

In a school year with the nominal 180 days, 117 days is 65% of the of the year. 

The statute required that RPS haul the kid and/or the parents to court at the seventh absence.  That leaves 110 truancy days unaccounted for.  Either the school ignored the statute in that case or our courts are as feckless as our schools.  Or both.

The totals at the end of page 705 of the list give an average of 6.99 unexcused absences per student, citywide.

Stay tuned . . .