Extent of the Truancy Problem

Although there are currently no national statistics available on the extent of the truancy, many states and cities do keep their own statistics which are often used to influence policy. A recent national study of school principals revealed that truancy was listed as one of the top five concerns by the majority of respondents (Heaviside, et al., 1998). In Chicago, a study conducted during the 1995–1996 school year indicated that the average 10th grader missed six weeks of instruction (Roderick et. al., 1997). Recent OJJDP research suggests that the number of truants are highest in inner city, public schools, where there are large numbers of students and where a large percentage of the student population participate in the free lunch program (OJJDP, 2001).

In terms of court processing, the number of truancy cases referred to juvenile courts is fairly small; for example, in 1998, about 28 percent of referred status offenses were truancies, which is an 85 percent increase compared with the previous ten years. However, this number is expected to increase dramatically given recent changes to truancy laws. Interestingly, the OJJDP (2001) reports that females are just as likely as males to be adjudicated for truancy.

Inside Extent of the Truancy Problem