Once upon a time, skipping school was called “playing hooky,” with innocent images of kids going fishing or swimming instead of cracking the books and listening to the teacher.

But now, Evanston Township High School has seen an “extraordinarily troubling” trend of what’s called “in-school truancy,” students coming to the buildng but not going to class, according to Assistant Superintendent Pete Bavis.

Monday night, Bavis told the District 202 Board of Education that “we had a big problem last year with in-school truancy.”

While aggressive steps are being taken this year to reduce the problem, with academic support and counseling, Bavis said the issue of “school avoidance” while still in school makes it less likely that the students in question will graduate, or at least graduate on time.

“They’re here but they’re not in class,” Bavis noted, “and if they’re not in class, they’re not getting credits.”

While specific numbers for in-school truancy were not given, data presented shows 93% of the current freshman class are on track for graduation.

The implication is that at least some of those not on track now, or in prior years, were among the in-school truants.

Board member Gretchen Livingson said “there must be something for them here” because they do show up in the morning, “perhaps the social connection.”

Or, she said, “it could be that there’s something not good about the home situation,” so school is a better option, even school without learning.

Another possibility is the social-emotional fallout from COVID-19, with some students still unable to balance back-to-school-in person with however they were impacted by remote learning and the lack of time with their friends and teachers during the pandemic.

“Kids lives have changed in so many ways that we don’t even know yet,” said board member Pat Maunsell.

Board member Mirah Anti said it’s time to “start the conversation” about what can be done within classes to engage those students who are currently skipping.

ETHS, Bavis said, will work with Northwestern University in “finding out the why” behind in-school truancy.

One thing which was not discussed … where do in-school truants go during the school day? ETHS is a huge building on a huge campus, which raises at least the possibility that those students just go somewhere and hide.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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3 Comments

  1. Great that all the millions of dollars in administration salaries need to bring in Northwestern to solve this problem. Our taxes hard at work.

  2. Wow, ETHS needs Northwestern to tel them how to incentivize kids to come to class? Where are the kids once they get to school? Are they hiding under the stairs? Aimlessly roaming around the halls without anyone asking them what they are doing? I thought there was security. Why is the school
    even focused on this, how about consequences? When will the focus actually be on education?

    1. No, there is security. Literally everywhere. Maybe the school should try to keep students engaged instead of hassling them. It’s hard to stay focused during blocks that are over 1 hour. The safety is very excessive and isn’t working with students to see why they don’t want to come to class or stay engaged. They ask us what we are doing literally all the time. Maybe they should try to communicate with us students effectively and not just go full authoritarian on us.

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