Experts say social factors contribute to truancy

Local - 2/25/2014 6:19 PM by Karen Franklin
FAYETTEVILLE - Truancy is a problem in itself, but experts said it's also the result of social factors like drug abuse, broken homes, bullying or a depressed economy. 

Therapist Hamlet Smith works directly with students and sees the pressures of the modern world.

"Children are dealing with exponentially greater issues than I dealt with when I was in school," Smith told WOAY. "Our social issues are so much more magnified these days."

Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller and her team spoke to Newswatch about a particular mother struggling to hold down her home.

"She had a teenage boy with her, and she said, 'He's a good boy.' She has to leave the house at five in the morning, so he has to get up, get the younger siblings off to school, give them breakfast and try to get himself there on time."

The consensus among prosecutors is that a child's age and maturity determines their responsibility to get to school and stay in school.

"Getting children to buy into the big picture vision is pretty hard because they've got poverty staring them in the face," Smith said. "They've got a broken home, they've got people that they care about that are struggling with drugs and alcohol, and children are struggling with drugs and alcohol."

Paul Blake, Jr. is a circuit court judge in Fayette County and has an analogy for kids headed for a dead end.

"A young person in a canoe, laying down in a canoe in a river that's headed toward a waterfall and certain death, and you can throw a rope out across that canoe, and you can just watch that rope slide of the canoe and back, and you throw that rope back and think, 'All you got to do is grab it, and you're saved. Just grab it,' and they won't grab the rope."

Smith told WOAY why it make be hard for children to feel motivated.

"Children are seeing a lot of hopelessness," he said. "They're seeing a lot of drugs and broken relationships in our community, and they can really get focused on that and feel like, you know, 'It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I go to school or get an education. Life is going to chew me up and spit me out anyway, so why not just have a little fun now.'"

Blake said the complexity of a child's home situation means there's no one-size-fits-all solution.


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