Truancy diversion class invites groups to speak to families

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — The Gallipolis Juvenile Truancy Diversion program is in action again and is heading into its last two classes in the coming weeks.

According to juvenile court diversion officer Anita Moore, the program was implemented in 2013 as a means of giving families a last chance before having to face court consequences with children who have faced at least 12 unexcused absences over the school year and as an alternative to probation. The program once consisted of nine courses over nine weeks and has since been consolidated into six classes in six weeks. Attendees of the classes are shown a variety of resources regarding family health, employment searching practices, good nutrition and budgeting techniques, to name a few.

This is the fourth year Moore has engaged in the program. It typically starts in the spring.

“Truancy is an issue in every county,” Moore said. “Basically when a family has high truancy and they are getting to school, the school can file on them. When you have chronic truancy then you come to juvenile court and you get put on probation.”

Moore said she felt it was possible to work with families and the hope with the diversion class was to serve as a last means to help a family get on track with their children and getting them back into school. The program is geared toward middle school-aged students as that is often where the highest rates of truancy are found.

“In every family there is an issue,” Moore said. “I felt like we could get with them and start helping these people. There are so many agencies that are out there that work with families. I thought how can I put together a program that these people could come and learn about these agencies and get help with the underlying issue, ‘Why am I not going to school?’”

Moore referenced that sometimes children may be bullied or there may be problems in the home with why a child might not be making it to class. According to her, truancy was an indicator of bigger issues in a child’s life delaying their education in school.

“I talked with the (juvenile) judge to come up with this plan for a program to work with the families and the children,” Moore said. “He said yes and come back to me with what you find.”

Moore said she was inspired by a program she had heard about in Kentucky and worked with Gallipolis City Schools to put the program into action. Moore said she occasionally keeps tabs on students who have made it through the program and is pleased to report that most students seem to be progressing well after having gone through it.

On top of speaking herself, Moore often invites speakers to the classes. The University of Rio Grande and Bossard Memorial Library have volunteered time to speak with students and their families.

Lynn Pauley, a library associate with its adult programming, spoke with the Tribune and families.

“I went over Gale Courses,” Pauley said. “I went over all of our databases (with the families) but Gale fairly in-depth. Not only could the parents use it but the students as well.”

Gale Courses are a series of online enrichment and skills classes the library hosts at no cost to the community or participants. Many of the classes can help prepare an adult to take their GED tests as well as others. Digital photography has been a favorite class of participants as well as learning the basics of language, criminal law, nutrition, budgeting practices, employment seeking practices, as well as math courses and more. One only needs a library card.

Pauley spoke about the library’s “Book-a-Bike” program and how residents of the Gallia area had expressed interest in borrowing bikes to potentially get around town, only needing a library card to request a bike. Pauley also spoke about the library’s genealogy resources if family’s were interested in studying their ancestry. Book clubs were mentioned to adults and the teens.

In short, the truancy diversion program aims to bring individuals or all walks of life together to get students back to learning by all means possible while avoiding the pains and finality of court procedures.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright