Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2007

Abstract

The University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC), one of three centers of excellence within the School of Law, is a national leader in promoting family justice system reform. CFCC’s mission is to create, foster and support local, state, and national movements to integrate communities, families, and the justice system in order to improve the lives of families and the health of the community. CFCC’s Truancy Court Program (TCP), created in 2004, exemplifies these goals through the operation of a court-school-CFCC partnership that leverages the stature, authority, and expertise of each of these three entities to tackle the truancy crisis in Baltimore City.

Beginning with five Baltimore City public elementary and middle schools, the TCP has since expanded to six elementary/middle schools and one high school. The model is based on an early intervention, therapeutic, and non-adversarial approach to truancy. It targets students who are “soft” truants – students who have from three to twenty unexcused absences – in the belief that this group still has academic, social, and emotional connections to the school. The judge or master volunteers his/her time to collaborate each week with the TCP team. In addition to the judge or master, the team consists of school representatives, a CFCC staff person, a University of Baltimore law student, the TCP Mentor, the TCP School Liaison, the child, and his/her parent/caregiver.

While the TCP saw immediate and dramatic improvement in school attendance, behavior and performance among participating TCP students, CFCC quickly recognized that there were few, if any, other interventions to address truancy. Until recently, Baltimore City schools relied almost exclusively on the TCP to provide an approach to truant behavior. At the same time, public attention focused increasingly on the extraordinarily high number of unexcused absences in Baltimore’s public schools. While chronic truancy was rampant throughout the state, it was far and away more pervasive in Baltimore City than in any of the counties.

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