Problems at home contribute to truancy in JCPS schools - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Problems at home contribute to truancy in JCPS schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - As kids rush to get to class at Valley High School, many have no idea the problems their fellow classmates face.

Taniah Warner, a 15-year-old sophomore at Valley, has deep scars.

"He got shot, and he ran back to the house and it was like 3:00 in the morning, he was banging on the door," Warner said. "I was so in shock, this is my big brother. I didn't know what else to do but hold him, there was blood everywhere."  

Warner was in 8th grade. Her brother pulled through, but she started getting into trouble and skipping class daily.

Some students are afraid to go to school, but it is not because of what is happening in the classroom. It is what's happening at home.

For three years, Brooklyn Adams was terrified to come to school.

"From my opinion, my mom was sick so I had the fear of her not being there when I got home," Adams said. 

She says she missed about 90 days of school last year to look after her mom.

"It was really hard to focus on classwork, but then focus on things going on at home ... that was a struggle, a big struggle," Adams said.

Ellen Smith, the youth services coordinator at Valley High School, works with truant students like Taniah and Brooklyn.

"That's the first thing we look at, is what's going on in the home?" Smith said. "We know that if we don't have them in the building focused on going to class on time, they are not going to be successful." 

School staff work with parents, students and social service agencies to get families the support they need. After six unexcused absences, the school must report the situation to the district.

"By law, we have to do a home visit," said Brent Lynch, director of pupil personnel. "We have to monitor the situation at the house."

Lynch says often the situation is eye-opening.

"We always say that truancy is a symptom of something that's going on, whether it be drug abuse in the home, could be domestic violence, could be a health-related issue." 

The district partners families with social workers, counselors and community programs.

"Seven Counties provides a lot of services to our schools, and there's a lot of different hospitals that have programs from drug and alcohol, to family counseling, to in-home family services," Lynch said.

If it continues to be a problem, some cases are taken to court, where judges work to find solutions.

"We did 775 truancy petitions to family court last year, which was up from 500-something the previous year," Lynch said.

Last year, more than 15,000 students were habitually truant. Already this school year, more than 6,600 are habitually truant. Lynch says the problem is not going away, but it can be fixed case by case, student by student.

Adams has made a turnaround her senior year with the help of staff at Valley.

"I have not missed any days, and I am very proud of myself," she said.

She proudly showed off a video on Instagram showing her excitement of a college acceptance letter.

"That's when I got my acceptance letter into EKU right there," she said.

Her mom is doing better, and so is she. She has big goals, too.

"I want to major in health and medicine and become an ultrasound tech," Adams said. 

Warner has completely changed her attitude about school.

"I'm not going to say I'm the best my family has, I'm one of the few," Warner said. She credits her success to joining ROTC, cheerleading and counselors who worked with her through traumatizing violence.

"When I go to the military, I plan to be a second in command medical director," Warner said.

She has gone from failing to an A and B honor roll student.

"Most of my family, they don't grow up and go to college," she said, crying. "My family, they don't graduate high school. It was different back then." 

They were once labeled as truant, but Warner and Adams are now the faces of success through support and hard work.

"Everyone can change," Warner said. "And I like the feeling of being someone that my family is proud of." 

If you are a parent that is struggling to get your kid to school, contact your school or the district office. They are there to help set your family up for success.

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