San Bernardino City Unified School District officials and community supporters visited the residences of truant students last Wednesday to encourage them to return to school.
Operation Student Recovery is the district’s intervention plan to visit the last reported addresses of students who have missed school since the beginning of the academic year. The district action is conducted twice a year–once at the start of the year and again at its conclusion.
As defined in the California Education Code, a chronic truant is an individual that is absent from school without a valid excuse for ten percent or more of days in one school year. Under state law students could face an array of consequences for truancy–ranging from a written warning to community service. Parents face stiffer penalties, such as $400 fines or jail time for failing to properly supervise their child and encourage them to attend school.
However, the school district is choosing a positive approach–one that refrains from condemning others and instead focuses on finding solutions.
During a brief training meeting at Arroyo Valley High School right before the commencement of the operation, district staff emphasized the need to build relationships with by offering students and families support through counseling, tutoring, health, and nutritional services.
“This is a community relations event,” said the district’s Director of Youth Services Ray Culberson. “It’s important to show students that we care.”
Approximately 175 visits were made to apartment complexes and homes on Friday, according to district spokesperson Linda Bardere. Of that number, only 37 students and family members were contacted.
Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden was among the dozens of district officials who participated in Operation Student Recovery. Along with Assistant Superintendent Rachel Monarrez, Marsden visited several homes near Del Vallejo Middle School.
At one residence on Pumalo Street, two young students–ages 12 and 14–answered when Marsden knocked on their door. Both boys were eventually encouraged by the Superintendent to get ready for school, even after admitting that they didn’t feel like going.
“It’s important to get them to understand that there are repercussions,” Marsden said about helping students understand the effects of truancy. “Imposing fines and penalties is the last resort. What we want to do is identify the barriers that keeps them from school. If these students form habits at a young age, it could be detrimental.”