Parents ask board to use probation program
One parent said community members feel the school is not meeting its responsibility for students at LHS.
“We believe we owe it to the kids to put them in the safest environment possible,” she said. “Safe means keeping them in school.”
The item was not on the agenda and the board could take no action, but board trustee Karen Bradbury said she would like to look into the program and has heard good things about it.
Becky Jordan, a mother of a sophomore at LHS, asked the board if they thought truancy was the gateway to potentially destructive behavior and if every resource available was being utilized to maintain safety and well-being of the students.
Jordan urged the board to consider using the probation program.
She said the truancy program is positive.
“It’s not just about truancy. These people do a lot more than just put them (students) in their seats.”
Lassen High School Superintendent Dan Lewis said the district will look into the truancy program.
However, Lassen High School participates in the school resource officer program and has hired a police officer from the Susanville Police Department to be on campus.
He also said the probation department will be used at Diamond Mountain Charter High School and at Credence High School and it will be examined how it works, but said the SRO program is effective at the high school.
Assistant Chief Probation Officer Letha Martin started the truancy program six years ago.
She researched six counties with a truancy program and put together a program fitting for Lassen County, by herself.
When the program first began, there was only one probation officer and now there are three. If LHS were to participate in the program, Martin said there would be a need for at least one more officer and grants would be researched to hire a new probation officer.
Martin said the program grows more and more every year and is the most successful program in the department.
Officers are able to go anywhere in the county, conduct home visits, find out why students aren’t in school and bring them in.
The truancy program also provides a liaison with law enforcement, works with school administrators and other agencies including Lassen County Child and Family Protective Services.
Truant officers can hold conferences with teachers, school superintendents and parents.
In addition, truant officers have more authority than police officers.
They can hand out tickets, require drug tests, ask for progress reports, refer a child to counseling and take away driver licenses.
Martin said the truancy program can take the burden off the schools and it’s the officers who become the bad guys and students know truant officers can hand out consequences for their actions.
On the other hand, Martin said truant officers can also have good rapport with the students and the students know the officers want them to do good and are trying to help.
The program also provides families with support and referrals to resources they might need.
If it is discovered a student isn’t in school because they are at home baby-sitting a younger sibling, the probation department will find day care options for the parent.
The truant officers patrol campuses, talk with students, conduct assemblies about bullying and talk to the staff about new drugs and what to pay attention to.
Martin said the crime case-loads have dropped a third since the program started. Crime includes vandalism, theft and drugs.
According to the Lassen County Probation Department Truancy and Crime Reduction Program statistics in mid-January, 36 students commit crime prior to attending high school and 83 students commit crime while in high school.
Martin said every school in Lassen County utilizes the program except LHS and Long Valley Charter School being the most recent to ask for the probation department’s services.
Martin said the truancy program is not only beneficial for the student, but for the schools as well because it helps average daily attendance.
The state gives funding to schools based on students attendance, or ADA.
Martin said if LHS were to participate the truancy program would be involved with every child in the county and not in a negative way.
She said the truancy program may work with a student and the family since third-grade, but when the child enters high school, the truancy program loses contact with the child and parents.
Martin said there is also a huge demand and parents are asking for the truancy program at the high school.
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