Collaborative Effort to Reduce Truancy Launched on Kauai – Truancy Court

The Fifth Circuit Court, in partnership with numerous Kauai agencies and organizations, has launched Truancy Court Collaboration, a pilot project to improve school attendance and family engagement.

A similar program at an Oahu intermediate school produced a 91 percent daily school attendance rate in 2016-17, up about 40 percent from 2015-16.

“We are very excited about this program and grateful to our partners for helping us to introduce Truancy Court Collaboration on Kauai,” said Judge Edmund D. Acoba of the Fifth Circuit’s Family Court. “We believe that this can be achieved by addressing the hardships and barriers that students and their families face through the use of positive, meaningful interventions which are culturally sensitive, and employ place-based community connections through education, engagement, and enforcement.”

Since January, Juvenile Client and Family Services (JCFS) has been working collaboratively with the Department of Education’s District Superintendent Bill Arakaki, Waimea High School Principal Mahina Anguay, Waimea Canyon Principal Melissa Speetjens, and representatives from the Department of Education’s Mokihana program, Department of Health, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, Hale Kipa Student Attendance Support Service, Liliuokalani Trust, and the Kauai Police Department.

“This student-centered collaboration is designed to build consistent school attendance, which is critical for student achievement, graduation, and a fulfilling career,” said Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. “By encouraging family engagement, rewarding positive behavior, empowering students and holding them responsible, we give students the tools to make good choices and achieve their full potential.

“I’m grateful to Judge Acoba and all of the partners for participating in Family Court’s mission to offer a place of healing,” he said.

“The unwavering mission of Queen Liliuokalani — to ensure the well-being of Hawaiian children and ohana — is the guiding light for our work at Liliuokalani Trust,” said Systems Liaison Edralyn Caberto. “Therefore, we are very excited about the opportunity to partner with the Fifth Circuit Family Court and community stakeholders in developing innovative strategies to enhance our youths’ opportunities to succeed educationally and to thus build pathways to thriving lives.”

The need to reverse truancy is highlighted in a University of Hawaii study, which reported that up to 89 percent of Hawaii inmates said they were truants.

The West Kauai School Complex was selected to participate in this pilot program based on its strong interest in addressing truancy problems in its area.

In August, JCFS staff, Judge Acoba, Hale Kipa, Deputy Attorney General Russell Goo, and representatives from Liliuokalani Trust presented the Truancy Court Collaboration Pilot Project at Waimea Canyon’s disciplinary assembly for the eighth-graders’ parents. JCFS and Hale Kipa then made similar presentations to the sixth- and seventh-graders’ parents. The final presentation was made at Waimea High School’s open house.

Attendees learned that the DOE will identify students from the 2016-2017 school year who accumulated 15 or more absences. If the absences continue this year, the DOE will contact the family. If the DOE’s efforts to intervene are unsuccessful, a referral will be made to Hale Kipa to contact the family and do home visits. If Hale Kipa’s intervention efforts are also unsuccessful, then a referral will be made to JCFSB and a probation officer will speak to the family about court intervention if the barriers are not addressed. As a last resort, a petition will be filed and the family will have to appear in Family Court. DOE, Hale Kipa, and JCFSB will continue to collaborate to keep students on track once a referral is made to Family Court.

“The goal is to provide early assistance to families that addresses barriers to attending school or classes without having to file a petition in Family Court and requiring the student and parents to appear due to truancy,” said Judge Acoba.

If the pilot project proves effective, the hope is to eventually expand it to all the middle and high schools on Kauai.

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