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Criminology professor, students partner with the Arlington Independent School District to fight truancy

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Friday, April 19, 2013

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Media Contact: Bridget Lewis, Office:817-272-3317, Cell:214-577-9094, blewis@uta.edu

News Topics: Arlington, community service, liberal arts

The University of Texas at Arlington’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is partnering with the Arlington Independent School District to try to better understand and reduce the district’s teenage truancy rates.

Jaya Davis

Jaya Davis

Jaya Davis, UT Arlington assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice, and 10 of her students are spending two to four hours a week with a school district attendance officer and assisting in home visits with truant students and their families, court preparation and data analysis.

“Truancy can have a significant impact on our community and the students and families most affected,” said Alex del Carmen, professor and chair of the UT Arlington Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “We’re committed to serving the needs of the community while providing for exciting service-learning opportunities for our students.”

Under state law, a student is considered truant after missing more than three days of school within a four-week period or 10 or more days during a six-month period of the same school year. Truancy can lead to suspension, expulsion, dropping out of school, delinquency, poor self-esteem and even legal consequences.

Sylvia Nichols, AISD grant coordinator, contacted UT Arlington’s Center for Community Service Learning last fall as district administrators contemplated ways to encourage better attendance rates. Center director Shirley Theriot recommended the project to Davis, former service-learning faculty fellow at UT Arlington.

Davis’s students will submit weekly reports about their experiences and discuss their observations with classmates. A final paper will help prepare them for employment in the criminal justice and juvenile justice fields, she said.

Davis said she hopes the partnership with the district will evolve into an internship with district attendance officers, with AISD using the service-learning component as a preventative measure in junior high schools.

Michael Hill, AISD assistant superintendent of administration, considers the UT Arlington project a model platform.

“The AISD and our attendance officers are looking forward to working with UT Arlington juvenile justice students as we partner to ensure that AISD students attend class in order to be successful in their journey toward college and career,” Hill said.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,800 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

About the Arlington School District

The Arlington Independent School District serves more than 65,000 students and is the ninth largest district in Texas. The district includes most of the city of Arlington, Dalworthington Gardens, Pantego and parts of Grand Prairie. It is the largest employer in Arlington and the third largest in Tarrant County with more than 8,000 administrators, teachers and support staff. Visit www.aisd.net for more information.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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