DA’s Anti-Truancy Program Spreads From One High School To Two

A San Francisco anti-truancy program is expanding to a second high school starting this year, the city’s district attorney announced today.

District Attorney George Gascon is expanding the program to Ida B. Wells Continuation High School after developing it over the past two years at Burton High School.

The school, which overlooks Alamo Square, provides an alternative learning environment for high school students with a history of low attendance or low academic achievement, and will now have two new counselors available to work with chronically truant students.

The district attorney’s office has allocated $65,000 from its general fund for the two part-time counselors, as well as the same amount for two counselors to continue at Burton, where the program began in 2011.

Gascon said he hopes to eventually expand the program into every high school in the city.

“The work here does matter and is making a difference,” he said.

He said after a student does not show up for school on time, a counselor in the program begins calling the student and family members to find out their whereabouts.

“It’s a very immediate process,” he said. “They’ll do whatever it takes.”

Gascon said the engagement of family and friends is important to prevent truancy, which often leads to students dropping out of school and getting into trouble.

“It takes the entire community to work on this,” he said.

Ida B. Wells principal Richard Duber said the grant will help the school “create that personal connection, that bond that we know is the basis to enhance attendance.”

Duber said, “Students have to know there’s someone out there that cares, and students and their families have to know there’s a support system.”

Officials say chronic and habitual truancy has dropped 31 percent in the San Francisco Unified School District since 2007, when the district attorney’s office began a partnership with the school district to combat the problem.

Families in need of truancy-related assistance are encouraged to contact the school district at (415) 241-3030.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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