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The Montgomery Public School System is receiving positive marks from a report card that measures truancy. The school system's truancy rate is down by more than 37 percent.
The numbers reflect well on a unique program of the Montgomery County District Attorney's office. The Helping Families Initiative works to reduce bad behavior and truancy in schools. The hope is that it will prevent more serious problems in the future.
The initiative is a partnership between MPS and the DA's office that started in 2007 with a focus on lowering suspensions and the number of unexcused absences.
Leaders gathered at Blount Elementary School Wednesday to discuss the results of the program, bringing pie charts and bar graphs to show the progress that's being made. What the charts don't show is how the program works, how letters of concern are sent out first to parents of students who have been suspended or who are missing class.
If the student's problems persist, a case officer is then assigned. That's when law enforcement, healthcare, mental health professionals, social services and faith-based organizations become involved.
During the last school year, an astounding 75 percent of students who had been suspended were not suspended again. Suspensions for the most serious infractions were cut by 37 percents, and of the students who received attendance alert letters, some 82 percent went on to have no more unexcused absences.
Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks is very proud of the program.
"If I had to pick one thing in my career that will make the biggest difference, it would be the Helping Montgomery Families Initiative," Brooks said. "Because we are working with children before they get into the criminal justice system. And turning the lives of these students and their families around. I'm very optimistic on what the future holds. And today results, our report card if you will, shows great, great promise."
The initiative has expanded in the years since it was started. Now, it's in all 53 public schools in Montgomery County.
The program has a partnership with more than 50 community organizations across Montgomery, including the YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club and the Family Justice Center.
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