School District Of The City Of York
Resources are available to families struggling with truancy
A CBS21 news reporter recently contacted the School District of the City of York for a comment on a story about truancy. The district’s full statement in response is below:
At the School District of the City of York, we believe that every child deserves to learn in an educational setting where they feel safe, protected and loved.
Our staff works deliberately and proactively to promote a culture of caring in our schools that honors the intrinsic value of every individual.
We believe this culture of caring has a significant positive influence on the attendance rates at district schools, where more than 91 percent of students come to school on any given day.
However, for myriad reasons, some students struggle to get to school in time for the 8 a.m. bell. Others stop coming altogether.
When that happens, the School District of the City of York fulfills its obligations to state law – which defines truancy as the accumulation of three unlawful absences in a single school year.
In every case, the district’s first step is to notify the student’s parents/guardians of the situation in a letter sent home in both English and Spanish. Parents/guardians are invited to a meeting for the purpose of creating a Student Attendance Improvement Plan (SAIP).
Information from the student and family is crucial to developing an effective plan that addresses the root cause of the student’s truancy problem.
However, if a parent/guardian fails to respond or show up for a scheduled meeting, district staff will develop a Student Attendance Improvement Plan and mail a copy to the parents with a request for their signature.
District staff members frequently involved in this process include attendance officers, social workers, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and representatives from the Special Education office.
The goal of every Student Attendance Improvement Plan is to resolve the student’s truancy issue before it escalates to involve courts of law and the York County Children, Youth and Families agency.
The School District of the City of York offers an extensive menu of free resources and services to help families resolve their students’ truancy issues.
Because the root of many truancy cases is poverty, the School District of the City of York often seeks to assist families discreetly.
However, it is important that students and their families know that resources are available and that the staff of the School District of the City of York is committed to helping families in times of crisis.
Those resources include, but are not limited to:
- School social workers are available to students in every district building. It is their job to help students and families meet their physical, emotional, and mental health needs so that children can focus on learning.
- Communities in Schools coordinators are available to students in most district buildings. The national dropout prevention organization seeks to connect students and families with needed community resources.
- Through a partnership with the United Way of York County, the district offers the Youth Court Alliance to the families of students in grade 7 through age 16. An alternative to official court proceedings, the Youth Court Alliance is a student-led effort to help students overcome barriers to attendance and hold them accountable.
- Check and Connect is an evidenced-based truancy intervention program provided by Pennsylvania Counseling Services that gives students an opportunity to build a trusting relationship with a mentor over a two-year time-frame.
- The Bearcat Cyber program is available to students in grades 9-12 who prefer an online or blended learning opportunity. This flexibility addresses some students’ truancy issues.
- The district refers families to free classes hosted by Family-Child Resources to discuss and learn about topics like family communication, limit setting and using consequences.
In addition to these formal programs and services, district staff members will do whatever it takes to help students overcome barriers to attendance.
Sometimes students avoid school because their clothes are dirty and they don’t have access to a washing machine. So, we offer “tub hub” laundry services in some of our schools.
Students understandably don’t want to walk to school in the winter without a coat. When we know about the problem, we give them a coat.
Every district school keeps food, personal hygiene items and clothing on hand to offer to families struggling to make ends meet.
We do these things discreetly and regularly because Bearcats take care of each other.
In accordance with state law, the district will issue citations and refer students to the county Child, Youth and Families agency in cases of habitual truancy.
However, this only happens if a family fails to participate in the process or if a Student Attendance Improvement Plan fails to resolve the truancy problem.
Because truancy issues so often stem from poverty, we believe it is important that the public understands the significant, stubborn and widespread challenges present in York City.
Half of all students who attend the School District of the City of York live in acute poverty, which means they live below the federal poverty line of $24,600 annually for a family of four. Only six out of 500 Pennsylvania school districts have a higher percentage of students living in acute poverty.
Socioeconomic factors have a tremendous impact on student transiency rates. Housing insecurity and homelessness cause students to withdraw from and transfer between schools at an alarming rate. Between August 2017 and June 2018, about 1,400 students had withdrawn from the district and nearly the same number enrolled – a 23 percent turnover in a single year.
Pennsylvania’s new Basic Education Funding Formula allocates money based on need, using factors such as poverty rates and English Language Learners. But it only applies to new money approved by the Legislature.
As a result, the School District of the City of York is under-funded by $52 million.
If the new formula was applied to all state education funding, York City would receive an additional $6,565 per student – more money per student than any other Pennsylvania school district.
With equitable funding, the School District of the City of York would have more resources to combat the effects of poverty that so often lead to student truancy.