In a unique effort to keep truant kids in class, a judge is heading to a Kansas City school to hold court.
The first day of the Success Court program was cut short a week prior because someone phoned in a bomb threat, but Wednesday they will start again. The program started because too many students are skipping school at Northeast High School.
There are no desks and no teachers inside one Northeast High School room. It was a store room that has recently been transformed into a Success Courtroom. The judge works for free to help troubled teens who are cutting class.
"Parents are not engaged in their student's educational journey. You have problems in the community dealing with gangs, substance abuse, domestic violence. These kids are in that element," said Executive Director of Student Intervention Luis Cordoba.
To stop negative influences, the school district modeled the Success Courtroom program after the Independence School District's.
"We focus on those kids that are high at-risk, this is a prevention program where parents say, 'I'm having a challenge getting my kids to school, and yes, I know they are not achieving academically,'" Cordoba said.
The program aims to get troubled teens back on the right track. It focuses on kids with 60 to 80 percent attendance, disruptive behavior and lack of family involvement. It is a voluntary program that requires weekly sessions at 6:30 a.m. Wednesdays. To date, 10 students and their parents are participating.
"I'll use my own personal experience. I too was a child labeled as learning disabled. I too was a child that didn't like coming to school but, if you surround yourself with positive mentors, it only took one teacher to say, ‘You know what? You can do it,'" Cordoba said.
The weekly sessions scheduled for seventh- and eighth-grade students are structured to promote education and social skills, something the kids will miss if they're absent from regular classes.
"We as a community need to pull all our resources together for the success of all our kids," Cordoba said.
The program is not meant to be a punishment but instead proactive positive re-enforcement. Each weekly session the judge hears an update on the students' attendance, grades and behavior. Social and case workers work with the family to change outside factors that may be causing the child to skip school.
The Kansas City, MO, School District partnered with the Jackson County Family Court. The judge comes to the school in an effort to keep the students in school.
The school district does have a compulsorily attendance ordinance. If a student consistently misses school, their parents can be fined.
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