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Truant Recovery Program

Ages 11-18

Rating: Level 3


The Truant Recovery Program is a collaborative effort between the school district and all community police jurisdictions within its boundaries. The program is preventive rather than punitive. Its primary task is to return truant students to school as soon as possible. The program operates under the authority of the Student Welfare and Attendance (SWAT) Office. The program authorizes the local police jurisdictions to make contact with students on the streets during school hours. Students without a valid excuse slip are taken into temporary custody and transported to the SWAT office for processing. SWAT personnel attempt to contact the youth’s parents for an in-person meeting, in which both can be counseled and the parent can return the child to school. If a parent cannot be reached, SWAT personnel return the youth to school. The school site is also contacted, and both the school and SWAT Office closely monitor the student’s attendance in the future.

Three additional components of the program provide both accountability and consequences. First, the Department of Probation assigns an officer to the SWAT program to screen all contacted juveniles for probation violations and bench warrants. Second, the Student Attendance Review Board reviews records for habitual truancy cases and refers cases to the juvenile court for review and adjudication. Finally, the Suspension Alternative Class (SAC) is designed to make sure truant students are not rewarded for truancy by missing more school. Instead, students in SAC remain in school but are unable to engage in regular classes.


The Truant Recovery Program was evaluated using a quasi-experimental design. One hundred seventy-eight students were randomly selected from all of the truant youths picked up in Richmond, Calif., during autumn 1997. Of all the truant youths picked up, 69 percent were male, 60 percent were African-American, 25 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were Asian-American, and 3 percent were white. The median age was 15. For those youths in the sample, local and State criminal justice data was collected for the years prior to their truancy through 18 to 21 months after contact with the program. Academic data was collected for 3 years prior to the truancy until 2 years after the contact.


The evaluation of the Truant Recovery Program suffered from problems of missing data. The results show an increase in conformity to school regulations after contact with the program and a decrease in the number of disciplinary actions. However, during this same period there was an increase in formal contacts with the justice system and an increase in the proportion of arrests (4 percent of the truants were arrested before autumn 1997, compared with 8 percent after the fall, though this is not a significant increase). The number of both excused and unexcused absences decreased after contact with the program, which was the goal of the program. Academics improved slightly after contact with the program; however, the large amount of missing data makes it difficult to make a true analysis of this variable.

Risk Factors


  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring


  • Dropping out of school
  • School suspensions
  • Truancy/Frequent absences

Protective Factors


  • Effective parenting


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school


White, Michael D., James J. Fyfe, Suzanne P. Campbell, and John S. Goldkamp. 2001. “The School-Police Partnership: Identifying at-Risk Youth Through a Truant Recovery Program.” Evaluation Review 25(5):507–32.


Alan Del Simone
Student Welfare and Attendance Office
West Contra Costa Unified School District
5000 Patterson Circle
Richmond, CA 94805
Phone: (510) 232-6379
Fax: (510) 232-6395
Web site: