Students who avoid school may be grappling with many challenges. Here's how to address these students' needs—and get them back in.
School truancy—defined by a student's refusal to attend part or all of the school day, along with a defined number of unexcused absences—is an increasingly frustrating and complex problem for teachers and school administrators. Although statistics on the prevalence of truancy in the United States do not exist due to lack of uniformity among states in defining the problem, data show rates as high as 20 percent in some states (Zorn-Heilbrunn, 2007). Data also show that two-thirds of students who refuse to attend school have an underlying psychiatric illness (Bernstein & Garfinkel, 1986).
Intervening with these students requires a careful diagnostic assessment, creative outreach, and persistence. Although teachers certainly are not expected to make a diagnosis, being knowledgeable about behavior as a marker for mental illness can help schools effectively respond and rally a team to provide the student with the necessary support.