Truancy at a local school

More than 300 students have been marked absent with no excuse in Perry and Jackson County, Illinois this school year. Compare that to last year’s 180 truant students.

It may not look like it or sound like it, but even on the first day back after winter break, not all Murphysboro High School students are accounted for.

Senior David Watkins is on the fast track to college, school is important to him, but he knows truancy is a problem in his school.

“You hear about kids saying, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be at school tomorrow, I’m just going to skip tomorrow’,” said Watkins.

Truancy officer Barry Ancell agrees there’s a problem. He associates the high number of absences with a high poverty rate in the area.

“A lot of kids who aren’t eating in the morning and the last thing their parents are thinking about is getting them to school. They’re worried about heating bills, cars that don’t work, no jobs,” said Ancell.

According to the law, there isn’t a lot of leeway. If you’re not in your seat, even one time, without an excuse, you’re considered truant.

Brian Manwaring is a high school math teach who says connecting with students helps them make the right choice to come to class.

“Have a casual conversation with them. Knowing the extra curricular activities the students are involved in, conversations with them in the hall, outside the classroom,” said Manwaring.

“Manwaring wants his students to know they’re valued here.

“It’s a life skill that prepares them down the road to be good members of society,” said Manwaring.

Some superintendents say the jump in truancy numbers could be because the district went from one full-time truancy officer to three part-time officers to keep track of absent students. Parents and guardians run the risk of being ticketed after just one count of truancy.

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