Truancy in Santa Barbara County schools has increased significantly since the 2008 elimination of a countywide program led by the District Attorney. That is one of the findings in a recently released Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury report examining truancy in county schools.
In 2008, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors ended the District Attorney’s truancy program for budget reasons. The program, in existence since 1997, involved law enforcement and the county probation department working with school officials, parents or guardians.
Since the program ended, truancy rates have increased from 21 percent in the program’s final year to 31 percent this past year, according to the Grand Jury report. The recent increase in truancy is an indication that the program was successful. Truancy is defined as three days of unexcused absence in the school year.
The Grand Jury recommends that the District Attorney, the Santa Barbara County Office of Education and Santa Barbara County School Districts, both at the elementary and secondary level, reinstitute a countywide policy which could reduce truancy. In addition, the report recommends that county schools and the Santa Barbara County Office of Education pay a share of the cost of any new program.
The entire report can be found on the Jury’s website at www.sbcgj.org.
The Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury is a basic part of the government, within the judicial branch. The Civil Grand Jury acts independently, but it is under the general control of the Superior Court to assure that it acts in accordance with the Penal Code. The Constitution of the State of California requires that a Civil Grand Jury be drawn and summoned at least once a year in each county.