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Truancy Court Program E-Newsletter


University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts  

Edition #5  

June 2012  

In This Issue
Multiple Challenges Call for a Holistic Approach to Truancy
TCP "By the Numbers"
"The Most Powerful Tool is the Ability to Listen:" A Conversation with TCP Mentor Jana White
News Report on Absenteeism
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Bring the TCP to Your School

Do you want to keep more students in school? Help them re-engage and get excited about learning again? CFCC's Truancy Court Program has a seven-year track record with proven results: over three-fourths of participating students this year reduced their unexcused absences and tardies by at least 65 percent.
CFCC's early intervention program leverages the stature and authority of volunteer judges to help students substantially increase attendance and improve grades and behaviors.

You can learn how we do it by ordering the Truancy Court Program Toolkit.

This step-by-step guide will enable you to implement a new program in your schools or enhance an existing one.  It contains facts and data from CCFC's experience, useful forms, and detailed guides for the team, teachers and judge. To learn more,
Get Involved in the TCP

 You can help the TCP and truant students across Maryland! Here are just a few ways that you can make a difference:

  • Volunteer as a tutor or mentor
  • Donate incentives and/or other resources 
  • Participate in school improvement projects and/or TCP celebrations 

Please contact Andrea Bento or Gloria Danziger for more information.  

An Evening with Maryland's First Lady
First Ladys 2012
"This has always been my dream."
TCP Graduate Aaliyah Grimes with her grandmother (Photo by N. Peterson)

The sixth annual TCP First Lady of Maryland's Reception took place on May 30th. Over 200 TCP graduates, parents, school principals, staff, and teachers,  enjoyed dinner  at the Maryland Governor's Mansion and participated in a graduation ceremony at the Senate Office Building. Maryland's First Lady, the Honorable Catherine Curran O'Malley, who has served as a volunteer TCP judge since the program's inception seven years ago, hosted the annual event. The reception honors those TCP students with a minimum 65% decrease in unexcused absences and tardies and improved classroom behavior and academic performance.

And the Winner Is....


Battle of the Schools 2012 - 1
Students and staff showing off their new sunglasses and beach bags (Photo by A. Green)
For the first time in the TCP's history, CFCC partnered with University of Baltimore School of Law's student organizations to sponsor the "Battle of the Schools Contest" during the Spring 2012 TCP session.

 The competition, sponsored by Family Law Association, Students for Public Interest Law, Asian and Pacific American Law Student Association, and Women's Bar Association, tracked third marking period attendance for all students who had participated in the TCP during Fall 2011 and Spring 2012. Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School had proportionately the fewest number of unexcused absences (1.5 per student) and tardies (1.2 per student) among the 6 TCP schools and won several prizes - an ice cream social for the winning students, a pizza party, gift bags, and a plaque for the school. 
Students enjoyed Taharka Brothers Ice Cream with former CFCC Student Fellows Cassie Jackson and Jessica Weinberger (Photo by A. Green)
A Star is Born

Kids and Theater Jan 2012
(Photo by A. Bento)

CFCC operated the TCP "Kids and Theater" program in Violetville Elementary/Middle School for ten weeks in the Fall of 2011.  Professional teaching artist Joan Weber and actress Caitlyn Joy taught the program.  Seventeen students participated by writing their own scripts, learning to improvise, memorizing lines, and creating costumes and props.  On January 13, 2012, the students performed two plays - one of which had been written by the students - before an audience of their schoolmates and parents, followed by a reception in their honor.

Kids and Theater Jan 2012
(Photo by A. Bento)

Welcome to the Truancy Court Program (TCP)'s Spring/Summer E-Newsletter!  As we conclude the seventh year of the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts TCP, this issue reflects on the TCP's holistic approach to truancy, provides a look at the data for the most successful TCP session to date, updates our readers on a recent major report on absenteeism, and offers a TCP mentor's reflections on different counties operating the TCP.

Multiple Challenges Call for a Holistic Approach to Truancy 

TCP Manager Andrea Bento and volunteer Spencer Hall listening to a student at Margaret Brent Elem/Middle School (Photo by C. Hartlove)

India, an eighth grader participating in the Spring 2012 TCP session, was her family's primary caretaker for four younger siblings, all
under the age of seven.  India's mother worked three jobs to make ends meet while India was responsible for cooking, cleaning, and preparing her siblings for school.  Homework was something that India did at night - when she had the time and energy.  She left the house at 6:30 every morning, dropped off two siblings at a different school, and then took two more buses to reach her own school.  It was not surprising that India had missed 26 days of school during the previous two marking periods and was tardy nearly every day.

India was in desperate need of help on many different levels:
  • At home to cope with overwhelming responsibilities that stood between her and her education.
  • With her school work in order to catch up with her peers.
  • With transportation to get to school.
  • With self-esteem issues. 
How does the TCP address so many challenges? India's case is a perfect example of why the TCP's holistic approach is essential to address the complex problems that underlie truant behavior. The TCP process begins by identifying the child's needs, challenges, and supports. As the TCP judge and team get to know the child, they delve into a child's life to determine the reasons why he/she is missing school. Each week, the TCP participant and his or her family meet with the TCP team to discuss attendance, behavior, and grades. The TCP team includes a volunteer Maryland judge, a school social worker, a school administrator, a University of Baltimore law student, and a CFCC staff member. Each team member brings his/her own expertise to bear on the case, and the entire team joins together to support the TCP participant. In addition, the TCP student works with a TCP Mentor to build character and work through social and emotional  challenges. The use of this interdisciplinary team of dedicated experts allows the TCP both to identify and to address problems that underlie truancy.

Continue reading to learn more about addressing truancy holistically and find out what happened to India.

TCP "By the Numbers" 

The 2011-2012 TCP was remarkable in its effectiveness and support, based on data that are the strongest in the program's history: 

71%....... Average reduction in unexcused absences for Baltimore City TCP participants in fall 2011
33........... Number of TCP volunteer judges, tutors, mentors, and other volunteers
300........ Estimated total number of volunteer hours spent with the TCP
76%....... TCP participants who graduated from the program
81%......    Fall TCP participants who said that the TCP helped them in other ways beside truancy
100%.....TCP participants who said that the TCP judge and team listened to them and cared about them
19........... Number of Baltimore City Public Schools that submitted a complex application for six available slots for the 2011-2012 TCP
85........... Number of large pizzas eaten at the TCP's social events to reward and engage TCP participants and their families this year
1,000+.... Number of Maryland students who have been enrolled in the TCP since Spring 2005

"The Most Powerful Tool is the Ability to Listen:" A Conversation with TCP Mentor Jana White

Jana White currently serves as a TCP Mentor in Montgomery County and Baltimore County, Maryland, and as a TCP Coordinator in Baltimore City, but she has a long history with the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the
Jana White
TCP Mentor Jana White (Photo by C. Hartlove)
Courts (CFCC).  In addition to her current positions, as a law student, she was a CFCC Student Fellow in 2009 and has been involved with eight TCP schools in three different counties since then. 

In a wide-ranging interview, Jana reflects on her experiences in the TCP:

Are there major differences in the way in which the TCP operates in different counties and schools?

I have been surprised at the similarity of my experiences in the various schools and counties. While each program may face its own challenges, the goals that we have in place are the same and the children often share the same goals: to achieve success in school and to have a secure future.

What do you notice about the problems you see among TCP participants?  Are there similarities despite the fact that counties may have radically different socio-economic characteristics?

When I first began my work with the program, I expected specific issues to be more common in certain areas and less so in others.  This was not the case. Truancy covers all communities and socioeconomic levels - I've mentored students who come from stable middle class families and have serious attendance issues.  Also, no location is exempt from many of the underlying causes of truancy. I have seen children deal with single parent homes, poverty, substance abuse among family members, and bullying in each of the wealthier counties and in Baltimore City. More and more, video games, television, and internet access are keeping children awake into the wee hours of the morning and causing significant truancy problems at all of our TCP schools. Particularly for middle school students, I have seen that balancing newfound independence with a parent's busy schedule can lead to late nights, making it hard for students to get up in the morning.

Read the full interview with TCP Mentor Jana White.

New Report on Absenteeism: Millions of Students Are Missing At Least 10% of School Year


Ten to fifteen percent of the students in the United States are chronically absent, according to a report released this month by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. In other words, five to seven-and-a-half million students are missing at least ten percent of the school year and are losing tens of millions of days of classroom instruction. Yet only six states maintain data on chronic absences: Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, and Rhode Island.  


Dr. Robert Balfanz, a research professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, and Vaughan Byrnes, a research associate, are co-authors of "The Importance of Being in School: A Report on Absenteeism in the Nation's Public Schools," which gathers and analyzes available data on chronic absenteeism at the state level. The report makes several policy recommendations, including the following:

  • It is imperative for the federal government and state departments of education to measure and report regularly the rates of chronic absenteeism.
  • States must engage in policy reviews to ensure that policies encourage every student to attend school every day.
  • States must work with school districts, schools, non-profits, the community, and parents to use evidence-based strategies that bring students back to school on a regular basis.

Learn more about the conclusions of the report, including good news for the future of students.  



Barbara Babb, Associate Professor of Law and Director, Center for Families, Children and the Courts


TCP Staff: Gloria Danziger, CFCC Senior Fellow; Andrea Bento, TCP Manager and School Liaison; Anthony "Bubba" Green, TCP Mentor Coordinator; Seth Okin, TCP Coordinator; Edana Gerald, TCP Coordinator; Jana White, TCP Mentor; Sharon Curley, CFCC Program Administrative Specialist; Elizabeth Mullen, CFCC Administrative Assistant


Editing Staff: Barbara Babb, Editor/Writer; Gloria Danziger, Editor/Writer; Andrea Bento, Editor/Writer; Elizabeth Mullen, Editor


University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children & the Courts

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