Truancy Intervention Program
A Message from Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott
School attendance is mandatory in the State of Minnesota for good reason, children cannot achieve success without the benefits of education. In 2016, the Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office and all the school districts in the County implemented the Truancy Intervention Program. In March 2019, based upon the success of the Truancy Intervention Program and in collaboration with Blue Earth County Community Corrections, the County implemented a Student Attendance Review Team (SART) as a pilot program in partnership with Mankato Area Public Schools (ISD 77). The SART program, an enhancement to the truancy diversion initiative, is designed to coordinate truancy programming and services through interagency and community cooperation. The County is currently working with all school districts within Blue Earth County to expand the SART program to the Lake Crystal, Maple River and St. Clair school districts in the 2019-2020 school year.
Minnesota law defines a student as a habitual truant when they are absent from school without lawful excuse on seven or more class periods. Once a student qualifies as a habitual truant, the County utilizes a screening process to determine if a student is eligible for SART. The SART team is typically comprised of representatives from the County Attorney’s Office, Community Corrections, and the participating school. The team invites the student and parent(s) to enter into an attendance contract and the parties discuss supports and services that can be established to ensure the student’s educational success. The SART students participate in weekly meetings with the team to monitor compliance with the attendance contract.
By entering into a voluntary contract without going to Court, not only do children stay out of the Court system, but the County and school districts are able to intervene quickly, effectively and efficiently to deliver the resources necessary to improve school attendance. Truancy is historically one of the biggest predictors of future involvement in the criminal justice system. Statistics show that high school dropouts are up to eight times more likely to be in jail or prison than someone with a high school diploma.
The County is excited about expanding our partnership with local school districts to address issues of truancy earlier in the school year and work collaboratively to deliver more comprehensive services to students and families. In doing so it is our overall goal to increase high school graduation rates, decrease the number of youth involved with the juvenile justice system, and improve the success of our whole community.
Patrick R. McDermott, Blue Earth County Attorney