Representatives from Seward County Pretrial Diversion visited the Jefferson County Commissioners on Tuesday, to report on the status of the program, noting that there have already been 47 truancy cases since the beginning of the school year, and more expected to come.
Johni Shonk, of Seward County Pretrial Diversion, noted that the cases reported so far have been severe. She will be working closely with school administrators to monitor and mitigate the issue, explaining that she will be working in Fairbury’s school district every Tuesday and Thursday.
“We have a lot of kids in the attendance program so far,” said Shonk. “We have 47 cases and I’m enrolling four this week. When I say that they’re being truant, its significant. Some of them have missed 30 days or more. I think two of them haven’t even been to school this year at all.”
The truancy program, which serves Jefferson County’s schools, is in its second year. Last year, the program worked with 78 cases, with 10 cases being referred to Jefferson County Attorney Jeffrey Goltz to undergo court proceedings. Eight of the cases referred to Goltz resulted in prosecution, which led to some of the students being sentenced to probation.
Jefferson County Commissioner Mark Schoenrock was surprised by the number of cases and stated he was glad that they continued working with program to address the problem.
“It was very successful last year,” Schoenrock said. “We as commissioners feel we made a lot of progress last year, and that was quantified in many different ways from increased attendance and more kids involved in extracurricular activities. You can’t succeed with everybody, but there are quite a few who have improved. We consider ourselves to be partners in this thing, and we’re very serious about it. We really wanted to improve the lives of some of these young people. We know that we’re not going to get all of them, but it makes a difference.”
Shonk emphasized how excited she is to get involved with the truancy program, noting that she has already contacted students and parents involved in some of the cases and is planning to make home visits to ensure the students attend school. Schoenrock explained that intervening in these students’ lives will help to deter other negative activities in the future.
“It really takes a team effort, and we’re trying hard as a community to address this issue,” said Schoenrock. “We want to try to change the direction of some of these people’s lives early on so they don’t end up in our jail statistics reports or worse when they get older. We need to apply some corrective action earlier in their life to make them realize that they’re closing some doors they might not be able to open in the future.”