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Buchanan measure aimed at cutting chronic school truancies

Cost of truancy to Alameda, Contra Costa Counties is $80 million

State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-16th) has introduced legislation sponsored by Attorney General Kamala Harris to address chronic truancy in our schools.

Forty years ago Student Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) were created by the legislature to provide local interventions for truant students rather than referral to the juvenile justice system, Buchanan said. However, creation of SARBs currently is voluntary.

"Student success is directly correlated to student attendance," she said. "It's simple, when students are not in class, they don't learn."

"With the right individuals at the table, such as mental health or social service agencies, we can work with students and families to find positive solutions to attendance challenges," she added. "It begins by requiring every county office of education to have a SARB to support local districts."

Buchanan explained that when operated collaboratively, county SARBs are an effective tool to provide training, guidance, and oversight to local district SARBs. A strong SARB can identify attendance or suspension patterns that can be addressed with prevention strategies prior to a hearing or referral to the District Attorney's office.

The combined cost of truancy to Alameda and Contra Costa Counties is approximately $80,020,789, according to the attorney general's In School + On Track report.

Assembly Bill 1643 is part of a package of five bills sponsored by Harris that together will help schools, parents and agencies effectively intervene when children are chronically absent and improve local school districts' and counties' ability to track attendance patterns.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

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