Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson recently announced a new expansion of the county's continuing efforts to combat school truancy.
The Thomas J. Long Foundation awarded a $625,000 grant to local nonprofit Lincoln to allow the organization to join forces with the county in attempt to reduce persistent absenteeism, the DA announced Aug. 19.
The county's Behavioral Health Services Department will offer in-kind matching funds toward that effort, bringing the total value of the increased effort to fight absenteeism to $1.25 million.
Chronic student truancy has been identified as one of the most serious and life-long threats to the nation's youth, and if a child does not read at grade level by the end of the third grade, the chances he/she will later drop out are four times higher than their peers, according to the DA's office.
"It is far better to keep a child in class today, than in a jail cell in the future," Peterson said.
Contra Costa County Superior Court judges Rebecca Hardie and John Laettner have spent numerous hours coaching parents on the need to get their children to school, according to the DA's office.
Contra Costa County's leaders developed a system-wide plan last year involving schools, law enforcement, the courts, private businesses and the county's Office of Education to address chronic truancy.
The Contra Costa Superior Court formed a parent truancy program to fight against absenteeism in elementary and middle-schools by requiring parents of truants to appear in court.
"This grant will allow us to provide personalized assistance to the truants or their families to ensure the children get to school," the DA's office stated. "This fund can be used for transportation services, therapy and coaching for the kids and their families, other services or referrals to other providers."