In the midst of ongoing attention to chronic absenteeism, a recent piece in MindShift notes that some students are battling mental health or other family issues that are severe enough to cause them to refuse to go to school.
The article cites data from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which estimates that school refusal caused by anxiety affects 2-5% of school-age children and tends to be more common when students are making the transition into middle or high school.
One new model for addressing such cases is the Threshold Program, a charter school in Maine that sends teachers into students’ homes until the students are ready to return to school.
Messages from schools about high absenteeism rates sometimes imply that disorganized parents are the reason why students are missing too many days of school. But it’s possible that schools have not been sensitive enough to situations in which parents have done all they can to get their child to school and are in need of help from school social workers or other professionals in the district who can determine how to best help the student.
Fear of bullying is another reason why some children refuse to go to school, and as the piece said, transitions into new schools can also create anxiety that leads to higher absenteeism. This suggests that schools can increase attendance by having programs that welcome students into new schools, help them get involved, and follow up with them over time to make sure their transition is smooth.
As they seek to reduce chronic absenteeism rates, it’s important for district and school administrators to work in partnership with school social workers, psychologists and others who can propose solutions for specific students and address situations that might be keeping them out of school.