TRUANCY PREVENTION THROUGH MEDIATION
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY FOR SCHOOL YEAR 2001 - 2002
The link between truancy and future delinquent behaviors, such as, illegal substance use, burglary, vandalism, and dropping out has been well documented (Cooper, 2000; Gabb, 2000; Garry, 2000). In addition to resource and fiscal strains on the legal and education systems more proximally, truants subsequent inability to secure higher paying jobs and the possibility of needing state welfare assistance make truancy an expensive loss of revenue in the future as well. The Truancy Prevention through Mediation Program, however, has consistently demonstrated positive results in the effort to combat truancy among elementary and middle school age students, thereby making it a wise investment in Ohios future.
The Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program is unique in that it requires families, schools, juvenile courts, and social service agencies to work collaboratively to address the issue of chronic absenteeism and truancy. At participating schools, students with 5 or more absences in a grading period or 10 or more absences throughout the school year are targeted for the program. Once a student has been identified, the school contacts the parent/legal guardian via letter to appear at a scheduled mediation hearing. A parent/legal guardian, trained mediator, school representative, and in some cases, the student, participate in the mediation hearing. At this hearing, the mediator serves as a neutral third party helping to facilitate discussion of the issues surrounding the childs unexcused absences and works to develop a mutually agreeable resolution to the problems. Should the child incur subsequent absences after the mediation hearing, the parents are referred to juvenile court and warned the child may be charged as an unruly or delinquent child, and the parents charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and/or violation of the state revised code regarding compulsory education.
THE EVALUATION METHOD
Due to the large number of schools participating in the Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program for the 2001-2002 school year, a sampling strategy for collecting data was adopted. Each school completed the evaluation battery (Case Cover Sheet, Mediator Form, Mediation Summary, School Representative Survey #1 and #2, Parent/Legal Guardian Survey #1 and #2, and Student Survey #1 and #2 when appropriate) in three mediation sessions per month rather than in each session as had been done in previous years.
Based on the average number of mediations conducted in schools in the previous school year, it was decided that when possible, the evaluation instruments should be completed in the 3rd, 6th, and 9th mediation sessions. If fewer than nine mediations were scheduled for the month at a given school, the school coordinator randomly selected three sessions in which to administer the evaluation battery. If there were three or fewer mediations scheduled for a school in a month, the evaluation battery was administered in all sessions. In discussions with project coordinators and school coordinators, this protocol was adhered to fairly closely in most counties. Issues of tracking the 3rd, 6th, and 9th mediation sessions did not seem to pose the anticipated problems and coordinators were willing to do the necessary tracking in order to alleviate the other burden of collecting data for everyone. For some of the counties, few mediations were scheduled, therefore when data were collected for each mediation session, all the data were entered for analysis.
It is critical to note, the results presented here are for only a sample of the mediation cases conducted in a county during the school year. That is, in most instances, schools conducted more mediations than are represented here. Thus, it is possible there is something unique about the cases that ended up being selected for inclusion; however, this is not likely assuming a normal distribution of cases.
During the 2001-2002 school year, the Truancy Prevention through Mediation Program was utilized in eight counties and 90 elementary, middle, and high schools. In total, over 900 mediations were evaluated for this school year. In each of the counties, a significant reduction in the number of absences or tardies was demonstrated for those students/families that participated in the program. Furthermore, Truancy Prevention through Mediation Program participants had extremely positive outlooks regarding their satisfaction with the mediation, feeling validated during the mediation, and recognizing mediation as a viable tool for resolving similar issues in the future.
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