Updated: Thursday, 12 Aug 2010, 7:44 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 12 Aug 2010, 6:44 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Indianapolis Public Schools students were back for their second day of school Thursday. But it was the first day of searching for so called "no show" students.
IPS has been emphasizing the importance of attendance. So the schools waste no time in finding "no shows". But tracking down truant students isn’t carried out by officers in uniforms, with squad cars and hand cuffs.
Social Worker Kim Winkel and parent liason Charlesetta Waddell are the truant officers at IPS school 83 on the east side of Indianapolis. It’s school that had a lot of no shows the first day of class. More than 360 were expected in class but fewer than 285 showed up. About 20 percent were truant.
The work begins in the school itself, making sure the student is definitely not in the building. Then the women use the phone. "We call the home number, call the cell phone number, called the emergency number," says Winkel.
No answer means it's time for them to hit the road.
"We've got to get out there and really work hard. Our job is cut out for us; to find out where you at??? What can we do," Waddell asks.
The two go out and knocked on the doors of two homes today. The first is where records show a brother and sister, both "no shows," live. No one's there. A note is hung on the door with instructions to call the school.
A neighbor says the family moved out. That's often the case and sometimes it's as simple as a student has transferred schools. The team will try and verify it. Then, it's on to another home.
There's a car in the driveway and it appears someone is peeking through the front window blinds. But no one answers. Three no-show children are believed to be living in the house. Voicemail on the family phone is full. A note is left on the door.
"Right now this is our first attempt to mom; we want to give her a chance to respond back to us. She may have a very good reason," says Winkel.
The women say eventually they resolve about 95 percent of the no-show cases.
"Yea, I get discouraged. Because we want to see the kids, we want them here, we want them learning," says the social worker.
The truant officers can't just go into a house. They can ask for help from IPS officers and Child Protective Services if needed. But, they say that rarely happens. Instead, it takes slow methodical detective work to find the no-shows.
Attendance was better today at school 83; 15 more students showed up and several parents called to say they'll be bringing students to class tomorrow.
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