Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘truancy’ Category

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the process of deciding to share difficult information about one’s family. This post is devoted to receiving this information.

Some of the richest and most heartfelt conversations I have had have been when someone decides to confide in me or when another person listens to my story.

When your family member or friend is having family problems and decides to share these issues with you, it takes a lot of courage, hope and trust that you will not judge, will listen carefully, offer help if asked, will not gossip. This is a confidential and difficult conversation.

Truly listening means that you turn off distractions: this is not a time for watching TV, texting and taking calls. Turn off your phone and give that person your attention. Listen with your head and your heart. Don’t ask a lot of questions, just a few to clarify the situation if needed.

Don’t change the topic unless you’re very uncomfortable hearing this news, and if you are, it’s better to just say you’re uncomfortable.

This conversation is about the other person, not you and your family, unless you’ve experienced a similar situation. Then it’s appropriate to share but limit your input: this person has a lot to say.

Be private and confidential. If the person wanted all of the family and friends to know, there are many ways to alert everyone. It can hurt the person’s feelings if you talk about this to others and damage your own credibility as a confidante.

Don’t judge the people involved. You’re hearing a part of the story and you’re hearing it for the first time. It may be shocking news, but all of it is in the realm of the human condition: the things that happen to people and the decisions we make.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help and provide resources if you have them. One woman called me regarding her son and after listening to her story, I asked if she wanted resources or how I could best help her. She was looking for resources and I gave her a few places to start, indicating there were additional resources in my book and on the blog if she needed them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re already dealing with a stressful situation. I also keep in touch, ask how things are going, and remember her on Mother’s Day and Christmas, two really hard holidays for her.

When you see or talk with the person in the future, ask about his or her child. I know from personal experience that the concern people show is helpful. It helps me to know that they haven’t forgotten I am a parent, and birthdays and some holidays in particular are really difficult.

Keep in touch and show concern and compassion. That’s the best way you can help anyone.

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What is truancy and what are the penalties?

Posted by Marcia on September 9, 2010

I was surprised to learn all of the ramifications and penalties for truancy.

A link on the California Department of Education site provides a thorough explanation about truancy and penalties for students and parents. Penalties range from warnings to a $1,000, and if you are in contempt under the law, you may be imprisoned. I’ll provide summaries and quotes, and you can go to the site for additional information.

Definition of a Truant

If your child misses more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three times during the school year he/she must be classified as a truant and reported to the proper school authority.

First Notification Mandate

In addition to the reporting requirement, the school district must notify the parent or guardian by first-class mail or other reasonable means, and must include specific information related to the unexcused absences and notes that the parent or guardian must require the child to attend school. The parent or guardian has the right to meet with school personnel to discuss the issue.

Pupils may be subject to prosecution, suspension, restriction, or delay of the pupil’s driving privilege. It is also recommended the parent or guardian accompany the pupil to school and attend classes with the pupil for one day.

Habitual Truant Mandate

According to the law, once “a student has been reported as a truant three or more times in one school year and after an appropriate school employee has made a conscientious effort to hold at least one meeting with the parent and the student, the student is deemed a habitual truant. The intent is to provide solutions for students who failed to respond to the normal avenues of school intervention.”


If your child “… is a habitual truant, or is irregular in attendance at school, or is habitually insubordinate or disorderly during school, the student may be referred to a school attendance review board (SARB) or to the county probation department…. The student may also be referred to a probation officer or district attorney mediation program…. The intent of these laws is to provide intensive guidance to meet the special needs of students with school attendance problems or school behavior problems…. These interventions are designed to divert students with serious attendance and behavioral problems from the juvenile justice system and to reduce the number of students who drop out of school.”

Penalties (Student)

“The law provides schools and school districts with discretion regarding student penalties for truancy as long as they are consistent with state law. The penalties for truancy for students … become progressively severe from the first the time a truancy report is required through the fourth time a truancy report is required.”

The first time a student is truant, a written warning may be issued by a peace officer. A record of the warning may be kept at the school for a minimum of 2 years or until the student graduates or transfers from that school. If the student transfers, the record may be forwarded to the new school or any school receiving the school records. A record may be kept by the law enforcement agency.

The second time a truancy report is required within the same school year, the school may assign the student to an after school or weekend study program located within the same county as the pupil’s school.

“The third time a truancy report is required within the same school year, the student is classified a habitual truant and may be referred to and required to attend, an attendance review board or a truancy mediation program.”

If truancy is reported a fourth time within the same school year, the student is then within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and they may determine the pupil to be a ward of the court.

If your child becomes a ward of the juvenile court, he or she will be required to do one or more of the following:

“(1) Performance at court-approved community services sponsored by either a public or private nonprofit agency for not less than 20 hours but not more than 40 hours over a period not to exceed 90 days, during a time other than the pupil’s hours of school attendance or employment. The probation officer shall report to the court the failure to comply with this paragraph.
(2) Payment of a fine by the pupil of not more than one hundred dollars ($100) for which a parent or guardian of the pupil may be jointly liable.
(3) Attendance of a court-approved truancy prevention program.
(4) Suspension or revocation of driving privileges pursuant to Section 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code. This subdivision shall apply only to a pupil who has attended a school attendance review board program, or a truancy mediation program pursuant to subdivision (c).”

Penalties (Parent)

“Penalties against parents apply when any parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any student fails to compel the student to attend school.” Penalties are:

“ (1) Upon a first conviction, by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).
(2) Upon a second conviction, by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
(3) Upon a third or subsequent conviction, if the person has willfully refused to comply with this section, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500). In lieu of the fines prescribed in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3), the court may order the person to be placed in a parent education and counseling program.”

“… A judgment granting a defendant time to pay the fine or prescribing the days of attendance in a program shall order that if the defendant fails to pay the fine, or any installment thereof, on the date it is due, he or she shall appear in court on that date for further proceedings. Willful violation of this order is punishable as contempt.” In this case, you may be charged a fine of up to $1,000. If you are in contempt under the law, you may be imprisoned.

Posted in family difficulties, out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, truancy, truancy and penalties | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dore Frances’ Radio Show 8/30/10

Posted by Marcia on August 26, 2010

I’ll be on Dore Frances’ “Family Solutions Today” live radio show on Monday. You can listen live (call-in to talk) or download from iTunes later.

Details and a link are on her press release.

Posted in adopted kids, alcoholic father, author, book talk, changing parent's behavior, chart progress, compliment your child, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, entitled, estranged, estranged from parents, family difficulties, juvenile hall, kid on meth, meth addict, missing our son, nagging the kids, out of control teens, Parents and teens, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, self esteem, step-parent, Troubled teens, truancy, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Part 2: Troubled Teen and Truancy

Posted by Marcia on August 9, 2010

My previous post reviewed a situation with a woman’s son. He’s 15, had been running away from home, absent for up to 14 days at a time.

She contacted the school, let them know about the situation and asked for advice. Here are a series of edited emails so you can view how the schools approach truancy and what steps parents should take to protect themselves. Please note this is in California and terminology may be different if you’re in another location. Terms of note include:

SARB = School Attendance Review Board
SRO = School Resource Officer

“From: [Mom]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 9:45 AM
To: [xxx High School]
Subject: URGENT – my son

Hi [Vice Principal at High School],

We have not seen [my son] (nor have we heard from him), since last Fri April 30th… we have reported him missing/runaway.

I understand [my son] was at school yesterday Wed May 5th.

I have left a msg at the school office, that if there is any sign of [my son] at school today/Thur, I would like to be contacted ASAP — as I am trying to have SRO’s come talk to him (“if the stars line up right” – kind of a miracle if it happens, which I’m literally praying for!)

The other part of this is that after my meeting this morning, I would like to come to the high school close to 1:00-ish pm today/Thur to see if he is around, and maybe talk with you if you’re available.

Thank you very much – each one of you!!
From: [SRO]
To: [Mom]; and [Vice Principal High School]
Sent: Thu, May 6, 2010 1:02:31 PM
Subject: RE: URGENT – [my son]


Thank you for the heads up.

Should [your son] continue to have excessive tardies over 30 minutes or miss school with unexcused absences, you should encourage the SARB (School Attendance Review Board) as a means to protect you and your parental obligation and hold him accountable for the compulsory education law. If this does not occur by the end of the scheduled school year, you will be faced with having to start over next year as it is not a rolling discipline.

The SRO at your son’s high school should be familiar with DA Lois Baer (408-792-2777) who reviews and determines the discipline sanctions for truants and willing runaway youth.

Best of luck,

From: [Mom]
Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2010 3:40 PM
To: [VP at high school]; and [school district administrator]

Subject: Re: URGENT – my son

Can you explain what [SRO] is describing (below) … how does the SARB affect [my son / us]? I would like to understand more about this at your earliest convenience.

Appreciate all of your help,

From: [SRO – school resource officer]
To: [Mom]
Sent: Thu, May 6, 2010 5:42:43 PM

Subject: RE: URGENT – my son

The purpose of a SARB is to adhere to the Compulsory Education Law of California. Every child must attend school until the age of 18 or until receipt of their high school equivalency. Children not attending school is often a result of either of the two following things: 1) The parents are not taking responsibility for their child 2) The child is causing their own demise. The intention of the SARB is to identify which instance is occurring and follow that up with an appropriate sanction.

As we already spoke, [your son] is calling his own shots. A SARB would be directed at him, as you are fulfilling your obligations with the intention to get him to go to school.

From a school standpoint, this would be recorded permanently on his cumulative file. Should he transfer to a different school or seek a higher level of education in the future, this would reflect in any transcript documents.

From a criminal standpoint, this is a violation of the education code and he would likely be assigned an appropriate discipline by [DDA Lois Baer 408-792-2777]. This can include and is not limited to:
1) Civil fines and penalties (escalated by additional violations) on file as a lien against him
2) Community Service hours
3) Probation with terms “must be in school” (Violating this, he could be subject to arrest and placed in Juvenile Hall)
4) Revocation of license until 18 or 21
5) Incarceration at The Ranch monitored by Juvenile Hall
6) EMP (ankle monitoring)

If he is a VOLUNTARY RUNAWAY you are highly encouraged to contact the Police and file a report. You should also contact the school and notify them of his status. If the school reports his attendance as “present”, a Police Officer must be called and he will be removed from the Missing Person’s System immediately. The responding Officer will contact the parent or guardian to notify them that the juvenile has been located. It is that parent’s responsibility to communicate to the Officer a desire to detain/release the juvenile. If detained, the Officer will hold the child for a reasonable amount of time for the parent to pick up their child. Should the child run away from home, even as early at that evening, a separate report will need to be generated with the same directions to follow. Officers CAN NOT decline a Missing Person’s Report and it must be filed within 3 hours of taking the report.

By creating a paper trail, you are eliminating yourself from the liability of [your son’s] actions. Imagine he is drunk, gets behind the wheel of a car and kills someone. You NEED to eliminate yourself from the liability he might cause by reporting his behavior. If he is willingly and knowingly missing school, then HE must suffer the consequences. If he is 18, you no longer assume the responsibility.

As we talked about before, you have resources: (in the Silicon Valley)
Bill Wilson House
Bill Wilson Counseling
Parent Project
Tough Love
Children’s Protective Services (Children’s Shelter is closed)
Alternate family members
Parents Helping Parents

Hope this helps,

From: [Mom]
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 9:57 PM
To: [High School administrators]

Subject: RE: URGENT – my son

I would appreciate it if [xxxx and xxxx] would review and comment on the email information (below), and let me know how to get the SARB (School Attendance Review Board) in place for [my son]. The information below was sent to me by a [School Resource Officer], who has been helping me understand police and school processes.

The last time we saw [my son] was Sat. May 8th. We have reported him “missing”. He did leave a Mother’s day card for me on my car on Mon May 10th. Yesterday, Tue May 11th, I checked out the program at the different high school in the district – unfortunately [my son] did not show up.

I look forward to hearing from you, on how to proceed.

Thank you,

Posted in family difficulties, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, truancy, worried parents | Leave a Comment »

Part 1: Troubled Teen and Truancy

Posted by Marcia on August 1, 2010

I met this very nice woman, a professional who lives near me, and she told me about problems with her son. Because she sent a lot of information, I’m going to share this story in a few entries. Here’s the background:

“Our son, aged 15, had been running away from home during the last three months of his sophomore year and through mid-summer, and would be missing for up to 14 days at a time. We had no idea where he was or who he was with, as he had started hanging out with kids who we knew nothing about. When he was at home, although I would drop him off at school each morning, we were notified by the school’s automated attendance phone calls that he was skipping classes, and eventually missing days of school at a time. Many phone calls and meetings with teachers and school administrators became commonplace.

The only times he would come home was when police got involved and cited him for an offense like stealing, shoplifting, or being with someone who was cited for something. Other times, the school would call when he was suspended or there was a behavioral issue at school, which required us to pick him up and bring him home. Of course, he was not happy about having to come home (as it was not on his own terms).

Fortunately during this time, I started meeting School Resource Officers (SRO’s) affiliated with his school, as well as with the city we live in. I kept hearing the police and the SRO’s say, “you’ve got to start a paper trail, and report him as a runaway every time he does not return home when expected”. “Because of all the classes he is missing, you need to have the school prepare an SARB before the school year ends.”

One particular SRO was extremely helpful, and he patiently helped me understand school, police and legal issues. His knowledge of the school system and police policies were critical to understand, and I gladly share this information, so that other parents will understand that the paper trails and documentation are additional ways to protect parents from poor choices their child makes.”

Posted in family difficulties, missing our son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, Troubled teens, truancy, worried parents | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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