One year after its implementation, a three-tier policy to reduce truancy and absenteeism of Mitchell's students is showing positive results.
Based on the recent school report card for Mitchell School District, attendance numbers are in the mid- to high 90 percent across all grades in the elementary, middle and high schools.
The three-tier policy program was designed by the Davison County State Attorney's office in cooperation with the Mitchell School District and implemented in January.
During the second semester last year, MHS entered 14 school contracts with students after they had missed school unexcused three to five times. High school principal Joe Childs said this year only nine contracts have been entered, and one student was referred to the second tier of the program.
"There is a lot of negative stigma when a parent thinks they are in trouble and have to meet with the school due to attendance matters of their child," Childs said."We wanted to steer clear of that and create a system that provides resources instead of having a purely punitive system in place."
Craig Mock, assistant principal at MHS, collects and administers the attendance data at MHS on a weekly basis.
"When it comes to our new tier system, I'll meet with our school resource officer and go through who the students are that we need to be concerned about due to attendance problems," Mock said.
The first phase occurs after a student has three to five unexcused absences. At this point, an interventional meeting with the student, parent, administrator and resource officer takes place to discuss the underlying reasons for the absences.
"When we begin that first step, called the in-school-contract, we meet with the student, parents and the resource officer in this initial phase and try to determine the underlying cause of the absences," Mock said. "It's an opportunity for us to work collaboratively to see what we can do to improve the attendance."
At the high school level much of the attendance lies on the shoulders of the student, because they are older and responsible for getting themselves to school. MHS works with students facing transportation problems and offers bus vouchers to students in need, or can assist with warm clothing, if a student needs help with basic needs like a warm jacket while walking to school.
"It's certainly not a perfect situation but something that we feel is a community-wide focus on student attendance," Childs said. "We are hoping that this trend will continue in a positive direction."
The second phase of the program is triggered when a student accumulates eight to 10 days of unexcused school absences.
Local court services officers will then conduct a short course assessment of the student and family. When the assessment is completed and, with agreement of all members of the team, another contract is entered between the parents, the child and the school with regard to what steps are going to be implemented.
Phase three deals with chronic absenteeism after all other resources have been exhausted and the student has missed 13 or more days of school unexcused. At that time the student generally is referred to the courts where a Child in Need of Services Petition (CHIN) is filed. CHIN actions are civil proceedings used by the juvenile court to get a child to conform his or her behavior to certain rules.