PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The school attendance report is coming out soon and things aren’t looking great for Peoria.
The 2022 Illinois Report Card from the Illinois State Board of Education comes out in mid-October.
According to the 2021 report card, nearly 55% of Peoria Public Schools students were chronically truant, meaning they missed more than 5% of school days without a valid excuse. That’s also double the state truancy average of 22.8%.
“Chronic absenteeism was on the rise as we approached 2019, and then the pandemic was just the great magnifier. So rebounding from that has been very difficult. Some research is saying it could double,” said Beth Crider, regional superintendent of Peoria County Regional Office of Education #48.
Crider said truancy is a symptom of something bigger that’s going on in the family, such as homelessness, violence and poverty. Chronic truancy can lead to family court, and in worst-case scenarios can end in family separation.
“Being truant from school is one of the first major red flag indicators that leads to violence. Most of the children that experience detention at Juvenile Detention Center have truancy in their background. It’s the first warning flag and if we could deal with it then, we can interrupt that trajectory to violence,” she said.
In an effort to expand her six-person truancy team, Crider is applying for a $160,000 grant from Peoria’s Violence Prevention Grant funded by the American Rescue Plan.
Crider envisions a truancy advisory board consisting of non-profits and community partners to divert kids from family court and into school.
“What we’re hoping to do is to expand the way we handle truant minors. Right now, we are knocking on doors, finding kids, and trying to support them. But we need deeper case management,” she said.