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Posted on Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Truant officer: Mental health issues are surprising cause of many chronic truancy cases

By Danielle Arndt


Ann Arbor Public Schools truancy officer Derrick Padgett spends much of his day making phone calls and driving around to schools, sometimes simultaneously, to check up on students with attendance issues. He also makes home visits in rare cases or to talk to parents.

Joseph Tobianski |

Editor's note: The names of the students and parents in this story have been changed to respect their privacy.

Derrick Padgett pulled his car out of the mobile home park.

The stop had been a bust. The unit number he was looking for didn't exist.

Padgett began racking his brain.

"Well, there's one more place she could be," he said.

Her home.

Padgett is the truant officer at Ann Arbor Public Schools, although he's not particularly fond of the title. Often, families think he's some sort of cop, there to haul their children off to school or to ticket them for skipping.

But Padgett doesn't put students in the back seat of his car, nor does he issue tickets or report students to the court system. In fact, Padgett said surprise house calls, like this one, are rare, and reserved for those kids with severe, ongoing truancy problems — or "the chronic cases."

On this particular Wednesday, Padgett had hoped to check in with Jackie, a student at one of Ann Arbor's three comprehensive high schools, whom teachers and staff hadn't seen in class for about three days. Jackie had been staying with an older boyfriend in an Ann Arbor mobile home park.

Padgett got the unit number from Jackie's mom. He doesn't know whether the incorrect information was on the part of Jackie, so her mom couldn't find her, or on the part of a desperate mother, who was trying to protect her daughter and regain her daughter's trust.

But these are just a few of the things Padgett has to deal with in his job: he-saids, she-saids about where a child was and why.

When Jackie's mother opened the door to the home the two share across town, Padgett peered down the hallway at the glimmer of broken glass sprinkled about the floor. Nearby, he noted an upturned table lamp and a punctured wall. Jackie was sitting at the kitchen table.

Jackie and her mother had just returned home from the hospital, where Jackie had been admitted for overnight care in the psychiatric emergency ward.

Tracking truancy

In Michigan, a student is considered truant when he or she has accumulated 10 or more unexcused absences in a single school year. The role of a truant officer, in a general, is to work with teachers and school administrators in order to educate parents and students in the community on the importance of attending school.

"The goal always is to get a child to go to school," Padgett said, explaining he does whatever it takes to accomplish this goal. And "whatever it takes" varies drastically from student to student.

There is an abundance of probable causes and contributing factors that led to truant behavior among youth: traumatic life experiences, language barriers, unidentified learning disabilities, low academics, undiagnosed vision or auditory problems, financial difficulties, child abuse or neglect, substance abuse, uninteresting curriculum, high student-to-teacher ratios, negative peer relationships and a lack of value placed on education by the child's parents.

At AAPS, Padgett said childhood depression and mental health issues like in Jackie's case are at the root of a surprisingly large percentage of students' chronic truancy problems. Or, sometimes the parent has mental health issues and the child stays home to help and to take care of his or her younger siblings, he said.

Padgett said honestly he was shocked to learn what an epidemic this is.

"I would've thought of a whole lot of other things before I would've thought of mental health issues … leading to the bulk of attendance concerns at the high schools," he said.

But the mental health issues don't have to be as severe as Jackie's to impact a student's school attendance. Padgett said he works with a bright teen at Community High School who has anxiety due to some financial struggles his family is enduring.

"It's hard for him to sleep at night because of this anxiety, so he's sleeping during the day and not going to school," Padgett said, adding he referred the student to the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools. "They can help him chart data to look at his anxiety and to self-monitor it...

"It's been a continuous cycle for this kid because if you're not sleeping, you become exhausted and worn down. The kid had signs of depression and then anxiety about missing school. And because of that anxiety, he started to avoid class and his school work, which only causes more anxiety..."

This is just the second year AAPS has had a full-time truant officer. Prior to Padgett taking on the role, there was a part-time person who handled the district's truancy cases. However, the former individual took a more traditional approach of lecturing kids when they ditched class; whereas Padgett, whose degree and previous experience in social work have helped him to expand the role, tries to correct and address the cause of the skipping, he said.


Skyline Community Assistant Cheryl Haller runs down a list of truant students with AAPS truancy officer Derrick Padgett and updates him on the students' attendance status and grades.

Joseph Tobianski |

Padgett makes an annual salary of $81,626 in his new role. He was a school social worker at AAPS for 14 years prior to becoming the district's lone truant officer.

AAPS spokeswoman Liz Margolis said Padgett has done some very valuable work for the district since taking on the position.

"His knowledge of the district from his years serving as a school social worker has allowed him to ... intervene prior to when a student is considered truant," she said. "His knowledge of the social service system and the court system has allowed him to be a critical liaison for the district and students who are or are approaching truancy."

"I'm like a bandage," Padgett said, explaining he pulls all of the elements of a child's life together into a package that hopefully will help solve some of the child's problems and help them graduate.

Margolis said the district plans to continue funding the position as a full-time position next school year.

The scope of the problem

In the 2011-12 academic year, 93,408 cases of truancy were reported in Michigan schools. This is an increase of nearly 10,000 from the previous year, which had 83,491 cases reported.

Padgett said this fall, he's had approximately 40 students in his caseload. But he said those 40 are chronic cases, or students he dealt with last year as well. Truancy issues typically don't pick up until after the first semester, he said. By January, his caseload could double or triple.

"That's when students get report cards and start noticing trouble with their grades," Padgett said. "That's when they stop wanting to go class because they think they can't succeed."

He added by this natural break also is when administrators and counselors start to get a better feel for which students are being bullied at school and skipping certain classes or failing one subject and avoiding just that class.

Padgett said there also are some parents who don't care that their children will not go school and who will call and make excuses for their kids. By second semester, the school secretaries can usually identify these families. Some families also abuse the state's homeschooling laws and the parent will say they are homeschooling their child, when really they aren't, Padgett said. The latter and other cases of parents failing to take their children to school are considered educational neglect.


Ann Arbor schools truancy officer Derrick Padgett makes a house visit.

Joseph Tobianski |

The mother of one student Padgett works with at Skyline High School told him she keeps her daughter at home with her so that she can "keep an eye" on the daughter.

"She said if she dropped (Martha) off at school, she'd just skip anyway. So if (Martha's) home, mom doesn't have to worry. But I said that doesn't fly with me because the mom works, so she doesn't see (her daughter) anyway," Padgett said.

The 40 students currently on Padgett's caseload do not include children of homeless families, which is a demographic that traditionally struggles getting their kids to school. Homeless truancy issues are, generally speaking, passed along to the district's homeless liaison, Azibo Stevens.

Stevens works with these families to help them find temporary housing, resources and service agencies and transportation for their children, which school districts are legally required to provide free of charge.

Because last year was the first school year AAPS had a full-time truant officer, the district still is working out the kinks, Padgett said. He said when he started in this role, he was told to use PowerSchool, the district's attendance and grade reporting system, to monitor students' absences. Padgett also can view a child's schedule in case he needs to track the student down to speak with him or her.

However, frequently, teachers would not input their attendance into PowerSchool immediately at the beginning of the class period, making it difficult for Padgett to check in on his truant cases.

"Sometimes I'd call mom or dad and ask why Johnny wasn't in school, and they'd be like, 'What do you mean? He went to school today.' Then I'd go to the school and sure enough, there he'd be," Padgett said. "So that was part of the learning curve."

He said he mentioned this struggle and how it could cause additional unnecessary problems for a family to central administration. He said he believes central administration must have addressed it during professional development this fall because the teachers have been much better.

Padgett said most of his first year on the job was spent finding correlations between truancy and a student's family and academic life and various mental health issues. Finding these correlations has helped the district to identify more at-risk students and to implement preventative measures, he said.

"I have a network of people internally that I rely on at the schools to keep me informed of what's happening with a particular student on the day-to-day," Padgett said, adding his network consists of community assistants, counselors, principals and secretaries. "In my opinion, if a student is successful they're more apt to want to go to school, no matter what they've got going on at home. ... So those are the biggest things we monitor are grades."

Carrot on a stick

The Michigan Department of Human Services implemented a new policy this school year that's changed, in part, how truancy is viewed and dealt with.

As of Oct. 1, DHS now requires children ages 6 to 15 to attend school full time in order for their families to continue to receive cash benefits from the state. If a child does not attend school, the entire family can become ineligible for assistance.

Gov. Rick Snyder advocated for the new policy as a way to crackdown on the cycle of crime truancy creates.


Skyline High School community assistant Cheryl Haller discusses one student's attendance habits.

Joseph Tobianski |

Padgett said overall, the law is a good one and it makes sense that it may push families into getting their children to attend school. But from his perspective, he has seen situations like Jackie's where the child is simply defiant.

Padgett also has concerns about how the loss of state aid will impact the truant child's overall health. Because mental health issues often are a contributing factor to truancy and a lack of food, clothing and shelter can be as well, he worries the truancy problems for families who lose aid will simply grow.

"Even if a parent loses benefits, it's these children of families who are disadvantaged that fall into the (truancy) cycle the most," he said. "It may just increase the problem and build up the (juvenile) court system even more."

The DHS policy itself is confusing, Padgett said, adding he has contacted the state a number of times to find out if schools are legally obligated to report the names of families with truant children to DHS. But he has not heard back, he said.

Currently, Padgett threatens to turn families in only as a last resort.

"But sometimes I will tell them, 'Listen, I'm hear to help you avoid that (losing the cash benefits), but there is this new law and you got to get your kid to school or it could happen,'" he said.

The Juvenile Court of Washtenaw County also has a program to address truancy, called the Status Offense Diversion Program.

It serves students ages 6 to 17 who are referred to juvenile court for non-delinquent behavior, which could include incorrigibility, running away, school truancy and educational neglect by the parents, according to its website.

Juvenile Court Probation Supervisor Donna White said there are two diversion officers who primarily operate the program. When a child is referred, an officer schedules a meeting with the family and schedules a time to visit the school.

At the meeting, the officer talks to the child and the parent or guardian about the importance of education and tries to establish an informal contract between the family and the court system.

"Essentially, everyone signs a document stating the child will go to school," White said. "Sometimes, just the parents knowing somebody is looking motivates them. And the kids are often intimidated by the court. … The aura of the court sometimes brings about change in kids."

White said the diversion officers provide supervision and monitor the family for a semester. Like Padgett does, the diversion officers also try to connect the families with government agencies and outside resources, like Community Mental Health, she said.

"One family might need an alarm clock or maybe the kids are too embarrassed to go to school because they don't have clothing or clean clothing," she said.

Padgett said because the court's Status Offense Program is either a case where it works or it doesn't, he does not send many families to this program. If he does, the children are most likely juniors or seniors who need a quick turnaround to prevent them from dropping out and to get them to graduate.

If it is not successful, it can turn students and parents off to the idea of receiving other forms of help, Padgett said.

At AAPS, Padgett's focus is primarily freshmen and sophomores.

"These are often the grades that find it too easy to skip. And they are also the ones that if you address it early, can turn it around," he said. "The goal is creating successful students" and productive future citizens.

'The rooster call'

Padgett's greatest defense against a truant teen is something he has dubbed "the rooster call."

"I think because it's annoying," he said with a chuckle. "No kid wants to be called by some old dude every morning and told to get up."

Padgett's workday starts at 6 or 7 a.m. with these infamous rooster calls.

He said he spends about an hour every morning calling certain students with attendance issues to wake them up for school or in some cases, especially in the elementary grades, to wake up students’ parents.

Padgett said the rooster call can be very effective with the single moms because they often hear Padgett interacting with his own children, who are usually getting ready for school at about the same time and can be heard in the background.

Padgett said when he arrives at his office at the Balas Administration Building, he spends time searching PowerSchool to see if any of his truant students are absent.

Typically, he rotates every other day which buildings he attends to. For example, if Monday is the northwestern half of the district, Tuesday is the southeastern portion.

The majority of Padgett's mornings involve making phone calls to school buildings to check up on students and to speak with counselors, community assistants, coaches and his other "eyes and ears."

After this, he makes the rounds, usually trying to stop at one of the comprehensive high schools at lunchtime.

Food is the great equalizer, and Padgett said students need to eat. Sometimes students will come "out of hiding" to get their free or reduced lunch, he said. He also said the cafeteria is a comfortable place for kids, so it’s easier to approach them.

Skyline community assistant Cheryl Haller said Padgett knows his students and how to talk to them in ways that won’t turn them off.

"He does a good job of that," she said. "Let's be honest, he has a tough job. But he's made a significant impact. … A critical point with some of these kids is getting them into the building. But you can’t just do that and expect it to be good enough or for everything to be better.

"Derrick does a good job of lining everybody up — us community assistants, teachers, counselors, the whole group."

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

The Learning Problems: At a basic level, the School District has to address the issue called motivation/drive/initiative that shapes the learning process. Unless the student is self-motivated, the learning process may not begin. If the student gets motivated, he/she would easily overcome all the obstacles and arrive at the place of learning.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Derrick Padgett is really doing some good work. Thanks for the article, Danielle.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

"Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too." Judge Smails

Dan Ezekiel

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

Wow, excellent thought-provoking story.

Milton Shift

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 9:12 a.m.

Cutting benefits because their child skipped class? Very disturbing, Snyder is truly living up to his name, which always sounded to me like that of a villain from a Harry Potter novel.

Asa B

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:47 a.m.

Mr. Padgett really is a special person. He gives his whole self into his work. I was a student in Tappan in non-mainstream classes. Mr. Padgett was a friend to me, and gave me confidence to work on myself, come out of my shell and I worked my way back into mainstream class in one year. I think about him all the time, 13 years later. He even came to my Bar Mitzvah, and it meant so much to me. I dont think I ever said thank you for it all. If you are reading this, thank you Mr. Padgett for giving me your patience and support. -asa

Mike D.

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 4:43 a.m.

The late Tanya Padgett was the police officer at Huron when I was there in the early 1990s. Great woman. Tough as nails but completely selfless. Any relation?


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

"The late Tanya Padgett was the police officer at Huron when I was there in the early 1990s". She's not dead, she is alive and well and still agreat lady.

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:07 a.m.

Mike, I believe so. I know that Derrick's mother was an AAPD officer and did do some work in the schools. I do not know her first name, however, so I can't confirm this entirely.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

"Ann Arbor Public Schools truancy officer Derrick Padgett spends much of his day making phone calls and driving around to schools, sometimes simultaneously, to check up on students with attendance issues. He also makes home visits in rare cases or to talk to parents." I hope the "simultaneously" was not meant to be literal. If it is literally accurate, he would be breaking the law, and endangering himself and others.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

Mr. Padgett has done an amazing job in this role. You can tell that he truly cares about these kids and wants to see them succeed. I have observed his interactions with my son and many other students. He knows how to talk to kids in a way that they respond to. The district has needed someone like him for a long time.

Dog Guy

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

After the truant officer gets the horse to the river and shoves its muzzle in the water, BhavanaJagat, we teachers stand behind the horse and suck.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 2:27 a.m.

Like....the poop?


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

Getting the horse to the river: A good story. In learning at school, there are two problems; 1. getting the horse to the river, and 2. making the horse to drink water.

Laura Jones

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Such a timely article given what happened last Friday. There is really no public mental health care to speak of for people with disabilities. At least none that has any real quality or ability to help you change your life. Most insurance limits coverage so severely, they may as well not have it at all. Schools special ed programs are woefully underfunded - we spend a lot of time trying to keep kids out of the program so we on't have to pay for the services. We have no true mental health help for kids with problems. Unless you can pay for it yourself, you are out of luck. Who cares? Not many folks as near as I can tell, other than the ones who end up having to watch the result of our lack of action and lack of services. Once and awhile, we all collectively care when we see others harmed, like in Newtown. I assume, however, that this is momentary and we will let this pass too, call for gun control (which will do nothing to help) and then all tacitly agree to it being ok and ignore these folks again. We will pay to put them in prison, but not to help them in any meaningful way before then. Just look at the folks complaining about this small intervention in this article.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

Neat article...that guy deserves a medal.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

"Gov. Rick Snyder advocated for the new policy as a way to crackdown on the cycle of crime truancy creates." And the republicans don't want to spend a nickle on and have devastated the mental health care systems in this country to poor people.

Laura Jones

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

The lack of help for the mentally ill is truly bi-partisan.

Joe Kidd

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

Some people just cannot ever say a good thing about republicans, its always has to be a criticism. Why aren't you criticizing democrats for the very same thing? Here is an article for you that mentions some democratic strongholds also cutting mental health spending:


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Derrick is fantastic, and yes he is worth his weight in gold. I have a mentally ill child and another with ADHD, and we knew Derrick back in his school social worker days. He is great with the kids, they love him. They call him the Uno King, because he always had his deck with him and was ready for a game. He could always get the kids talking with Uno. I still see him around, sometimes at my sons' school and sometimes at Community Support & Treatment Services, where my son sees his psychiatrist and therapist. Even though it's been several years since he was the social worker involved with my sons' cases, he remembers them, and he remembers me. My son always breaks out into a big grin when he sees him. Someone asked about excused vs unexcused absences contributing to a child being considered truant. It is true that they are counting UNexcused absences. My mentally ill son misses quite a bit of school sometimes, but when he does he's either home with my partner or me, or in the hospital, or seeing a therapist or doctor or his psychiatrist. We are always in communication with the school and these absences are excused, so we're not on Derrick's current caseload. For now, my son is young, and still feels the authority of his parents and teachers, and on those occasions when he leaves school, he will either walk around and not even leave school property, and someone is with him or nearby watching, or once in a great while he will get off school property if no one noticed that he left the building, but he (so far) either turns around and comes back to school or he walks home. There have been a handful of times when the police have been called to help look for him, because he got away unnoticed, and he has talked of killing himself since he was seven. Sadly, I am sure that as he gets older and starts feeling that teenage independence, he won't respect that authority and I am sure that he will be a truant student.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 4:35 a.m.

I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the experts and school personell who have done so much to help my children. They have made a tremendous difference in our lives and most have gone above and beyond while we work together to give them the best futures possible.

Anonymous Poster

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

Jessie...I also have a mentally ill son who has seen more therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other "experts" than I can count. He is a teenager now and we have been down a road that, unless you are the parent of one of these children, you have no idea. Obviously, I don't know what will happen with your son, but I hope the best! I couldn't wait for my son to turn 16 so that he could be legally unenrolled from school. Your last line, "he won't respect that authority and I am sure that he will be a truant student" is exactly what happened as my son became older. When he was young, it was much easier to try to get him through a day of school. He has been in "special ed" his entire life and was not able to attend one of the regular high schools (ie: Pioneer or Huron), so he was in "special high school" to help him cope. Unfortunately, this hasn't worked so well for him despite years of "help" he has received. I can relate.

Joel A. Levitt

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

Ms. Arndt, Thanks for this important article about a very significant matter. I hope that it's only a beginning. Many of us might contribute enough time and/or money to help if we knew more. Counting Mr. Padgett, the two court officers, at least one DHS person, the principals, the community assistants and the secretaries, there are many people implementing several programs to help our distressed students. What is working and what is not? Is increased coordination needed and possible? Can retired volunteers be helpful? I know that developing reliable answers to these questions won't be easy, but I hope that you and the AnnArbor.Com will undertake to do it.

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:04 a.m.

Hi Joel, thank you for your comment and the compliments. I do not know if there are ways for people to volunteer to help with the issue of truancy in Washtenaw County or not. I will ask/look around and see what answers I can find for you. Just off the top of my head, it seems like organizations that provide opportunities for adults to serve as mentors to children would be a good place to start. Organizations like Big Brother Big Sister have on-site volunteer programs at schools that allow for adults and children to interact. Much of what Derrick does in his job and what he talked about being so critical is showing these kids and these families that someone cares about them and about their education, and teaching these kids, who may not have anyone else to teach them, that going to school is important — instilling that value. Thank you again for reading!


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

@glimmertwin: before you start bashing teachers, do keep in mind, while I'm sure some abuse the system, most are dedicated professionals who love what they do and are only absent when it's a necessity. Also, you didn't read the contract in it's entirety. AAPS employees who miss more than 3 days in a row, MUST bring in a doctor's note. I agree with the other posters how important and worthwhile Mr. Padgett's job is (see above on dedicated professionals). When in this country are we going to recognize and deal with mental health issues? Some are mild and some are severe, but so much wrong can be prevented if we would stop placing a stigma on mental health and have access to mental health services for all (and then, hopefully, maybe some of this year's shooting disasters can be prevented before they even start).


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

I know of many others besides my own children that have a variety of mental illnesses and issues, some very serious, that were absolutely caused by preventable environmental factors. There is no way to keep them from having scars after the fact but, their wounds can heal with proper care.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

If you think my list is hogwash I suggest you talk to people who work with children who have been victims of these crimes. There are more of these children out there than some like to think. Many of whom don't have the resources necessary to get the help and healing they need.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

They work if you copy and paste them. I am in no way saying that every instance of the types of mental illness I listed is caused by preventable environmental factors. I simply said that some mental illness is preventable. When asked which ones could be, I provided examples. My list was not all encompassing of causes or illnesses that can be prevented. Nor, do I mean for it to imply that all cases of these illnesses could have been prevented or were caused by anything the parent(s) did wrong.

Laura Jones

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

Ann23, 1. Your link doesn't work. 2. The list of mental illnesses that can be "prevented" is misleading and bordering on complete hogwash. You are missing a gigantic "maybe" and "some cases" in your statement. You make it sound like your list is always caused by an event or another person. It's simply not true.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

I am not saying that all (or even most) mental illness is preventable and caused by environment. I am saying there are preventable causes in a significant number of cases.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

Here is another article. While violence and abuse are big causes, there are other causes also. The victims of violence and abuse deserve to have the sources of their resulting issues recognized and acknowledged, and to have further abuse prevented. They also need good treatment, unfortunately that isn't always available.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

I'm guessing you didn't read the article I posted and have little knowledge of mental illness. I'll start with PTSD, something many of the children directly exposed to the Newtown massacre will now have. Preventing children's exposure to domestic violence and child abuse and sexual abuse would prevent many cases of PTSD. Also, depression, anxiety, ODD, antisocial behavior, panic disorder, dissociative disorders, symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, reactive attachment disorder...

Anonymous Poster

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

@Basic are absolutely correct! I fully agree. @Ann23...Which ones? Please let us know...


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Basic Bob, some mental illness can be prevented.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

Isn't that always the case? If only a few abuse, which I agree (including my son's teacher in 2008), than there should be no reason that all those days, unexcused, can be removed from the contract. A contract that protects the abusers is not worth the paper it's written on.

Basic Bob

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:43 p.m.

It makes me so happy to hear that mental health issues can be fixed by simply "recognizing and dealing" with them. From all accounts, the people you believe were not helped were receiving mental health care and were on prescriptions. Do you also believe that heart attacks and strokes can be cured after they have occurred? Mental illness is not preventable. The best we can hope for is early identification and ongoing treatment.

Dog Guy

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

"As of Oct. 1, DHS now requires children ages 6 to 15 to attend school full time in order for their families to continue to receive cash benefits from the state. If a child does not attend school, the entire family can become ineligible for assistance." Now that we have the attention of all, please open to page 12 of your songbooks.

Bashir McCrutcheon

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

I hope no one starts bashing about this man's salary, I agree he is doing important work. I am just curious about the "unexcused" part. If a parent thinks it's perfectly fine for their child to miss school and takes the time to call in, do they get unlimited absences?


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

The family can still be investigated for educational neglect.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Is there a way to get the official job description of the AAPS "Community Assistant?"

Danielle Arndt

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 4:57 a.m.

Thanks for reading and for your question. I will ask the district for an official copy of the job description Monday.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

What I find interesting is that when a student misses 10 or more days unexcused he/she is considered truant. Read the teachers contract - sick days, personal days and others, without an excuse, exceed 10 days and they are given a paycheck.

C.C. Ingersoll

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Oh yes, teachers... the leeches and ticks of society. Except when they're shielding your children with their bodies from a gunman


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Your comment doesn't make sense. Unexcused means that no one called the school to report an illness or give a reason for the absence (for example: funeral, vacation, etc.). The school district can demand verification from doctors for sick days, and in many cases they do. Teachers in the district have had pay deducted for 3 days of illness without presenting a doctor's note.


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

what does that have to do with the rain in Spain?????


Sun, Dec 16, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

Wow - this man is worth his weight in gold. I had no idea that mental problems were such a big problem in schools, either. TX Ms. Arndt for covering this story. I also feel sorry for these kids - childhood is supposed to be a happy time and a time of learning. For these kids, not so much. What more can be done for them?