Short Film Captures the Gravity of Truancy and the Need to Invest in Solutions that Work
Truancy is a major issue in Washington state, and has been at the forefront of Washington Models for Change work since the program’s inception. Programs developed by Models for Change partners that offer alternatives to formal court processing of truant youth have shown promise, but funding for these programs through Washington state’s “Becca Laws” is under constant threat of being eliminated. The first step to maintaining funding is increasing awareness statewide about the issue and the stories of those benefitting from Becca-funded programs.
Models for Change-funded research shows that truancy is symptomatic of larger problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, trauma or bullying. It is also a predictor of school dropout and future delinquency, unless the issues behind the truancy are addressed. “The issue is more complex than kids not going to school. Chronic truancy is usually a sign that a kid needs help,” said Leila Curtis, project coordinator at the Center for Children & Youth Justice (CCYJ), the Washington Models for Change lead entity.
Video is a powerful medium that has become increasingly common and accessible over the Internet. CCYJ partnered with Pyramid Communications and Seattle-area photographer and videographer Dan Lamont to create a video that puts a human face to the truancy story.
CCYJ plans to present the video to legislators and community leaders around Washington state, as well as at conferences and convenings that address truancy or the Becca Laws. There are also plans to show the video at intervention programs, like King County’s truancy reduction workshops, a peer-facilitated workshop that helps truant youth access school and community services.
Curtis is hopeful the video will lead to a philosophical shift in thinking about truancy in Washington state. “The video does a nice job of capturing why paying attention to and addressing truancy matters. It’s not just about making sure kids get to school every day. It’s about figuring out what’s really going on with these kids—why they are not going regularly—and getting them the services and support to succeed in school, and ultimately, in all areas of their lives.” Curtis believes the video is a useful tool in facilitating that shift.