HD57 - Study of Truants and Runaways

Executive Summary:
In 1997, the Commission on Youth began a two-year study on the statewide service capacity and program needs of truant and runaway youth in Virginia. A Task Force comprised of legislators, representatives of state and local child-serving agencies, public and private service programs, the legal and law enforcement communities, and the State Board of Education was established to guide the study effort. In the first year, focus groups were held across the state to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Virginia's system to identify and intervene with runaway and truant youth. As a result of the first-year efforts, three primary areas were identified for legislative intervention: improvement of the collaboration between local school districts and the Juvenile Court; expansion of educational options for students not succeeding in the existing educational system; and increased public sector accountability to work effectively with status offenders and their families.

In the second year, four workgroups were formed to develop recommendations and to develop statewide and national surveys on compulsory school attendance, the General Educational Development (GED) program, truancy intervention, and educational options for statewide administration to educators and Juvenile Court Judges. The Task Force toured model vocational and technical education centers in Virginia and were briefed on promising national models to intervene effectively with both truants and runaways. After two years of analysis, the solutions developed seek to expedite the process by which students' needs are identified and to provide schools, as well as communities, with the resources to meet those needs.

The recommendations offered below seek to reinforce a system in which parents, students, schools, courts, and communities are held accountable for school attendance. In addition, the recommendations include options to meet the diverse needs of students and families and the expectations for behavior, as well as the consequences for non-compliance, are clear to all parties involved. Detailed justification for the findings and recommendations is provided in Section VI.