Effort to combat school truancy launched

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Department of Social Services has launched an effort to combat school truancy titled, “School Success.”

DSS Commissioner Anne Solar briefed the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee Tuesday at the County Office Building on the effort to get more kids to school.

“This is really the department’s initiative to handle the chronic truancies we have,” she said. “I think this is a community problem.”

Solar told supervisors that chronic student absenteeism – often resulting from parental failure to ensure regular attendance at school – has becoming a growing concern for DSS. She said Child Protective Unit reports of education neglect and Persons In Need of Supervision, or PINS Division referrals due to a lack of school attendance, are “numerous.”

She said that although school absenteeism doesn’t pose an immediate safety risk for the child, the long-term impact of ongoing absenteeism is “significant.”

Solar said her department’s current strategies to address educational neglect and truancy aren’t improving the outcome. She said DSS is working to develop expertise in motivating change in the area and “strengthening collaboration” with schools.

Educational reports and PINS referrals in Fulton County come predominately from the Gloversville Enlarged School District. She cited several truancy statistics, including one teen student who had missed 131 days of school. Solar said many impacted families have “multiple children” with problems getting to school.

At the request of Gloversville schools Superintendent David Halloran, Solar said that she, as well as the probation director and district attorney, met to discuss the truancy problem. Also discussed was the current lack of consequences for non-attendance and possible “future strategies.”

“We’re trying to develop a strategy to allow us to really focus on this,” Solar said.

The DSS commissioner said she has heard of some families not wanting to put their kids on school buses “because there’s too many pedophiles out there.”

Solar said there exists a strong correlation between education and employability. She said there is also a similar strong correlation between unemployment and substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and other social problems. She said improvement in educational outcomes seems imperative in improving community outcomes overall.

The DSS initiative is being referred internally as “School Success,” and Solar said she is inviting all units within her department to reinforce the importance of school attendance with parents in their programs.

Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. said some families can bring their children to one school, and then have them transported to another school if they need to.

“We’re going to try to see what we can do,” Solar said of the overall problem.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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