Tag Archives: truancy

Just Go to School!

Today is day seven of the 2012-2013 school year, and I am in awe of the number of students who are not back in school yet.  My team of five people has spent the past seven days calling, emailing, and texting students, their parents, their grandparents, and their resident school districts because they have not re-enrolled with us and because they have not enrolled anywhere else.

Maybe we should get rid of public education?

I am starting to wonder if free public education is a good idea any more.  Perhaps parents and children would take education more seriously if they had to pay for it.  I already take education pretty seriously for my own children, but I can guarantee you that I would take it even more seriously if I have to pay $7K or more per child in order for them to attend.

We (as a school) spend thousands of dollars every year to track attendance.

We could save a great deal of money if education was not compulsory. Of course, I would be out of a job, but I am pretty sure that I could find another one.  Seriously, though, think about it: for my school of 1,200+ students, there are four people in addition to me who are dedicated to tracking attendance and encouraging (bribing, threatening – you choose the word) students to do well.  If we just stopped doing that, we would save the cost of the employees, the supplies, the office materials, and all that mileage that pays for me to drive around the state of Minnesota.

So – why do we require students to attend school?

We require students to attend school because it is in our nation’s best interest to have an educated population.  We need to keep people out of prisons and to keep them working. The best way to ensure that students stay out of prisons in the future and in jobs in the future is to educate them.  Ramsey County – and many other counties – in Minnesota believes this so strongly that they adjudicate students until the age of 19. Some judges have been known to get in the way of a student dropping out of school.

Education is important, so kids should go to school.  And parents should make sure that their kids go to school

Enough said.

ps: I did not go into the fact that there are people around the world who would LOVE to have the free public education that we have (not to mention transportation to school!), but let’s face it – that argument is kind of like getting your kids to eat peas by telling them that people are starving in other parts of the world.  It doesn’t work well in that scenario, and I doubt that it would work well in this one.


Filed under Education, Parenting

Attendance: Common Sense?

In my job, I am confronted almost daily with the need for common sense when we approach attendance.  The idea of attendance in an online school is a completely foreign concept for most people, and it was for me until several years ago when I jumped into teaching at an online school.  While at Wolf Creek Online High School, I participated in the development of attendance policies for the online world.

As I have worked in this now for several years, I have refined my thinking, have shared the concept around the state of Minnesota and in other states (most recently in Michigan – so fun!!!), and have started to think outside of the online world and into the seat-based world.

attendance pyramidSchool attendance is important, but we often go too far and lack common sense in our application of this value.  As one can conclude from the graphic to the left, I firmly believe in a correlation between school attendance and students passing their classes which eventually leads to graduation.  As this is the ultimate goal that schools presumably have for all of their students, it follows easily, then, that school attendance should be expected from all students.  But notice that, in addition to attendance, access to curriculum is also part of the pyramid. This is there because of my use of this pyramid in the online world.  Accessing curriculum is attendance in the online world.

But it is not in the seat-based world.

My latest and greatest question is this: WHY NOT?

With more and more schools using course management systems such as Moodle, BlackBoard, or Desire2Learn in order to house curriculum, lessons, and videos, accessing curriculum (which used to equate to the butt-in-seat of classroom) now can be done from a sick student’s bedroom while the student recovers from pneumonia.  This completely destroys the concept of seat-based attendance because accessing the curriculum is no longer dependent upon the student being in the classroom.

As options expand for accessing the curriculum, our definition of attendance and truancy will need to change.

And it should.

And when it does, horrible grievances against students will be avoided.

Within the past year, I have jumped into the Twitter world (mostly due to being able to disseminate my blog posts).  In that same time, I also read Think by Lisa Bloom and then followed her on Facebook and Twitter.  While she and I would likely disagree on some things (and we would both be ok with that as long as our stances can be clearly thought out and defended), she and I do agree on many things such as the need for literacy, the need for an emphasis on education, and the need for many to start thinking!

Last night, she shared a link on her Twitter-feed that sent me through the roof!

Click here to watch and read the news story about Diane Tran, the 11th grade honor student who was sent to jail for missing too much time in class.  Instead of dropping out to support herself when faced with a difficult situation, Tran chose to stay in school while also working a full-time job.

There are many questions that I have about this situation:

  1. Why is she supporting herself and two siblings?

  2. Why are her parents not involved?

  3. Why has no school social worker intervened and kept this student from going to court?

  4. Why has no one talked to this student about taking an online class instead of the first hour class that she often misses due to her life’s schedule?

  5. Why is she still getting good grades when she misses so much class?

There are solutions to the issue that did not need to involve the student paying a fine, going to jail, or even going to court!  The courts should be used when students and families are not able to cooperate with the school in a reasonable fashion.  They should not be used to punish honor students who are doing just fine in their classes even when they miss the classes.

I have said and will continue to say it: our system needs an overhaul to get it caught up with the times.  Our laws are still based on the education system of fifty years ago when schools did not even have fax machines.  The last revision of the truancy laws in Texas occurred in 2003; two years later, the Texas legislature passed the law allowing for virtual schools.  Like most other states across the nation, these two lines of thinking did not intersect.

But they need to do so.

Moving all of our schools to progress-based attendance will solve issues like that of the case of Diane Than.  She is but one student who has been caught in the cross-fire of attendance and truancy laws being outdated and poorly applied.  The intent of these laws are to engage all students in learning which would lead to successful lives.  When we lose of the intent of laws in the midst of applying them without common sense, we do the students of our nation a disservice.

This is why I do what I do.  I want to see these laws applied correctly to the students and families who need them.  And I want to see students and families to whom these laws no longer apply be freed from the shackles of old thinking.

What do you think?

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Filed under Education, Parenting

Tangent: Drive-Truancy-Support Network

Oy vey!  I love to drive; I really do…but this month is hitting an extreme.  For my job as dean of students at an online school, I do a bit of traveling to attend court for students who are truant.  Today I am in Hibbing, MN.  Where is that?  Google it.  Next week, I will be in Thief River Falls, MN.  And the week after that, I will be in International Falls, MN – almost in Canada!  Fun stuff…and tiring.  I left my house this morning just after 6 a.m. (not on time, by the way), and I was thankful that my maps were correct in their estimation rather of how long it takes to get there.  Today is a long day.

How can a student be truant in an online school?

Great question!  It is the question that consumes most of my working (and lots of other) moments.

Being truant in an online school is easier than in a traditional school.  Do not be offended by this, but truancy in a traditional school can most easily be avoided by simply showing up.  The student does not have to do work. The student does not even  have to stay away.  If the student’s butt is in the seat, the student is in attendance.  In an online school, attendance is defined as the progress that a student makes.  This still does not ensure that the student will pass or do quality work, but I do believe that it is one step closer to a decent requirement over the butt in seat requirement.

libraryWhat are you up today? 

My office is the Hibbing Public Library. 

No cell phones!


I can honestly say that if you are not thinking about how you can be a part of student’s life, you should consider it.  Students need support networks.  Every student that goes to court has a situation that makes my heart sad.  I am not asking everyone to be everything for every kid.  I am asking you to consider how you can be part of a network…how you can be one part of a fence that goes around a kid to support success.  Maybe you are good at something…like encouraging the student to dream…

What do you think?  Who was your support network? How was that network important to where you are today?  What is the small thing you can do to be a part of something great?

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Filed under Education

Go to School, Dummy!

attendance pyramid

I know – I’m not supposed to say the word “dummy.”  It’s the “D” word, right?  That is what the boy and the girl used to think when they were too little to know what the real “D” word was.  They also thought “shut up” was the “S” word.  It really rocked their world to get on a school bus and find out what the real “S” word is.

As usual…I digress. The point is that sometimes I feel like kids who do not want to go to school are just dummies – they do not get that they need to go to school.

Why should kids go to high school?

It’s all about graduation, right?  Go to school.  Do your schoolwork.  Gain some skills.   Just go to school and get it done.  Maybe make a few friends along the way.  Maybe engage in some clubs or sports.  But at least go to school. Graduate. Move on. Get a life. Get a job. Become a citizen.

I work with kids who don’t think school is a priority in life.

This week starts the high truancy court time for me. The rhythm of the school year looks pretty much the same every year.  First semester is the get cozy and get lazy time which then leads to a whole lot of travel time for me as I travel to court dates around the state.

I love my job!

Today I am in two counties for court. The first is 45 minutes north of the Twin Cities; the second is about two hours south of the Twin Cities.  When I get home around 6 p.m., I will have put on 240 miles in 10.5 hours.

I love my job!

Why do I do it?  I believe in it.  I believe that kids should go to school.  The school by whom I employed is an online school.  These kids should have very little excuse for not attending school.  If they have come to an online school and cannot drag themselves out of bed to sit in front of their computer screen for a few hours in their pajamas, then they have an issue.  And I will make sure that issue is resolved or ask the court to assist them in choosing another school.

Hennepin County believes in it too.  They are amazing!  They have the best truancy website, the best truancy video for kids (click here to watch it), and the best process for dealing with truancy.  If anyone should know which county in Minnesota does it best, it would be me.  I work with them all.  Hennepin County is the best.

Today, though, I am not in Hennepin County.  I am in two counties that also have good programs, and I look forward to seeing colleagues whom I have not seen in a few months.  I joked with one of them by email today that I would prefer not to see her again – it would mean that all of my students are doing what they need to do rather than being truant.  Oh well…maybe next year.

We cannot solve all of the problems of the world today.  Instead, I will try to solve problems in the lives of two young people today.  I doubt we will solve them, but we can start making steps.  I am thankful for that.  We will try very hard to help the students realize that school needs to be a priority.  If it is not, the law will help them make a priority by making their lives uncomfortable.

Go to school, kids…it’s the law!

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Filed under Education, Parenting

10 More Minutes of Fame!

I was a featured guest on the Jack and Sandy Show hosted by Jason Spiess and Sandy on KFGO 790 AM out of Fargo, ND.  The topic?  Truancy in online schools, of course.

It was so much fun!

The best part of the aftermath: my son called to tell me that he had taken the time to listen.  What a good boy!

If you missed it and were dying to hear me talk, click on the logo below to hear the segment.  I don’t think it is even 10 minutes long, but it felt like an eternity!

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I am FAMOUS!!!!

Late last week, I wrote a post titled, “I Want to Be Famous!”

This is not what I thought would be my moment of fame, but it is.  I will take it!

Yesterday and today – a news story was sent around the “real” news world and in print as well in many places.  It is about my favorite subject: online truancy.

Here are some of the links – it’s all pretty much the same story, though!  And – I cannot stand how my stomach looks in this photo.  Time to go to the gym!

Grand Forks, ND (woot! Hometown!  Go, Sioux!)

Duluth, MN


Sioux Falls, SD


New York




Washington D.C



North Carolina

And I just had a message from KFGO Radio in Fargo, ND…how cool is that!?!?!?!!?

Famous…that’s me.  🙂


Filed under Uncategorized