May 28, 2014: District Attorney Seth Williams announced today the Celebration of Attendance event to honor students for improved school attendance. The students recognized all attend schools participating in the District Attorney’s truancy prevention initiative, Project “GO.”
Project “GO” (as in “go” to school) is an early intervention and prevention program developed by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to hold parents and excessively truant elementary and middle school students accountable for truancy. The law requires all children to attend school every day until the age of 17 years. The participating schools notify the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office when a student has exceeded the number of unexcused absences agreed to as the limit for that school. Upon receiving this notice, a letter is sent from the District Attorney’s Office to the parents/guardians advising them of their responsibilities under Pennsylvania law. The parents and the children are required to attend a group meeting with the Assistant District Attorney, school staff, city agencies and community-based organizations. Parents are advised that continued attendance problems will not be tolerated and could result in court action against the parent and/or the child. At the same time, referrals are provided for parenting classes, counseling and other needed services.
If the letter and group meeting are not successful in improving attendance, the student and parent are invited to an individual meetingwith the Assistant District Attorney and school staff to discuss the child’s attendance problems. This meeting focuses on:
• Attendance problems
• Family issues/concerns
• School related issues/concerns
• The Assistant District Attorney reminds the parents of the possible legal consequences if the child does not attend school each and every day
• Both parents and children may be referred to appropriate agencies for necessary services
• Parents may also be required to sign a contract outlining the responsibilities of both the parent and child
If the individual meeting is not successful, the student and parent are referred to a final individual meeting with the Assistant District Attorney, school staff and other appropriate representatives. The message is reiterated for the final time.
Failure to improve thereafter will result in prosecution of the parent for Corruption of a Minor, 18 Pa.C.S. §6301(a)(2), a violation of the Public School Code, 24 P.S. §13-1333, and/or, in a particularly egregious case, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, 18 Pa.C.S. §4304. Similarly, a child 13 or older could be prosecuted for a violation of the Public School code (24 P.S. §13-1300, et seq); a child under 13 would be referred to the Department of Human Services as a dependent child.
“There is no denying the relationship between truancy, dropping out of school and the subsequent criminal involvement that happens as a result of dropping of out school,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “I, therefore, believe in my heart of hearts that these truancy reduction efforts will ultimately decrease crime throughout the city.”
“Early intervention is key,” continued the District Attorney. “ To be successful, we must address school attendance problems as early as possible — before the child’s behavior is ingrained and while the parent still exercises some control. Only if all of the above steps fail, will cases be filed against the parent and/or the child. The goal of “GO” is to get children back in school. Court action and criminal sanctions, though available, are the least desirable alternative. As a testament to the effectiveness of early involvement by a prosecutor, we have not yet had to employ the ultimate sanction and no parent has been prosecuted since the inception of Project GO.”
The supervising prosecutor for Project “GO” is Dr. Rachel Pereira. She can be reached at 215-686-9909 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gifts for the honorees were provided by Target and refreshments were provided by Brown’s Shoprite.
List of Schools with Nominations for Students Who Have Improved Attendance
Alliance for Progress Charter School
Belmont Charter School
Hardy Williams High Mastery Charter School
John B. Stetson Charter School
Mastery Charter School—Clymer
Mastery Charter School—Grover Cleveland
Mastery Charter School—Mann
Mastery Charter School—Smedley Elementary
Mastery Charter School—Thomas
Olney Charter School
Universal Audenreid Charter High School
Universal Bluford Charter School
Universal Creighton Charter School
Universal Vare Charter School
University Alcorn Elementary Charter School