- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Lancaster County Truancy Diversion Project is seeing success in improving grades and attendance among students at the six participating schools.

The program allows students facing truancy petitions from the county attorney’s office to avoid possible legal punishments by participating in the program. The program requires students to avoid further unexcused absences or suspensions, attend counseling services and demonstrate passing grades, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1LgzRr7 ) reported.

Students who achieve perfect attendance, improved grades and commitment to therapy are now able to skip bi-weekly truancy diversion court hearings. Those who demonstrate improvements in grades and attendance get rewards, and those who successfully complete the program have their truancy petitions and records sealed.

The program began in January 2011 at Park Middle School in Lincoln. Since then, participation in the program has decreased from 22 students in spring 2011 to nine students this fall, while average daily attendance at the middle school has increased from 94.2 percent to 95.5 percent last school year.

“That’s a pretty significant increase in average daily attendance, very positive,” said principal Ryan Zabawa.

Over the past five years, the voluntary program has expanded to Lincoln High School, North Star and Northeast high schools, and Goodrich and Culler middle schools. It’s a collaborative effort between Lancaster County Juvenile Court and Lincoln Public Schools.

“Your most effective way of dealing with truancy is to have it be school-based,” said Alicia Henderson, chief deputy county attorney.

The Truancy Diversion Program works, she said, because it treats each student and as individual to help him or her overcome unique challenges, which can range from laziness to bullying to a lack of transportation. The program’s social workers work with each student’s teachers to make sure they develop action plans to improve the student’s grades, Henderson said.

“We really can get to know the situations and really tailor the program,” she said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com


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