Program Impacts Students' Suspension And Unexcused Attendance Rates

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By Catalina Trivino

Montgomery parents and students -- listen up. If your child has two or more unexcused absences or is suspended from school, you may be hearing from more than just the teachers and principal. The Montgomery County district attorney's office is also getting involved.

Students may receive a note, a call or asked to meet with school officials.. If they get suspended or have too many unexcused absences. But they will also be receiving a letter from district attorney, Daryl Bailey, saying the student could be "one step from being arrested and taken to court." It may sound drastic, but according to statistics, the intervention is working.

Letters from the district attorney -- not to a defendant or someone on the prosecution...

They're letters being mailed out to the parents of students who have been suspended or have two or more unexcused absences. District Attorney Daryl Bailey hopes the letter draws attention to the more serious consequences that could come from that behavior.

"Informing them that I am aware of the suspension and warning them of the dangers of continued bad behavior and non-attendance in school," Said Bailey.

The letters are just the start of what's called the "Helping Montgomery Families" Initiative. If the student continues to be suspended or have unexcused absences the District Attorney's office sends a team to the child's home to perform an assessment on the child and their family to then figure out a plan to help the student.

For some, it may sound drastic -- but the overall goal? To keep kids from breaking the law now and in the future.

"There may be some things going on where they would need the support of family and are community agencies in order to be able to eliminate what those barriers are," Said Montgomery County Schools Superintendent.

But this plan is nothing new to Montgomery. And statistics show the initiative is working...

"They had over 750 home visits last year. They serve over 1,000 parents. That was a phenomenal job," Said Sandra Edwards, HMFI Director.

The initiative was started back in 2008 -- 218 students have successfully completed the program. 75 percent of them have not been involved with the law after their cases were closed.

Before the program was started there were more than 13,000 suspensions at Montgomery Public Schools, which is now down by 15 percent. The DA's office has also sent about 9,000 attendance letters just last year. Unexcused absences are down by 15 percent, as well.

The District Attorney's office says they've completed 353 family assessments so far. The schools with the most improved attendance are Baldwin Arts and Magnet, Brewbaker Tech and Floyd Middle School.



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