Impact of Schools' Social Bonding on Chronic Truancy: Perceptions of Middle School Principals
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No longer is the family the only unit of care for children and their education; schools are now the primary unit of education and are responsible for at least 6-8 hours of student connectedness. Yet, one in every 100 US students is truant. Among students ages 14-17, the number of truants is one in 10. In one township in Indiana, one in every three students is a chronic truant. Understanding why children disengage from school before reaching the compulsory attendance age of 16 is essential. This study explored the relationship of schools’ social bonding opportunities and principals’ perceptions of students’ social bond on rates of chronic truancy in middle schools. Chronic truancy was defined as 10 or more absences reported to the Indiana Department of Education during the 2006-2007 school year. Methods. A cross-sectional online survey consisting of 81 items was administered using Survey Monkey™. The list of participants was generated from the Indiana Department of Education’s online database of middle and junior high schools in Indiana. Of the 429 principals invited to participate, 144 responded. The final sample consisted of 99 public schools. Secondary data was used to compare school demographic characteristics. Results. Using multiple regression analyses, the results showed that schools’ social bonding opportunities and principals’ perceptions of students’ social bonding in middle school were positively but not significantly related to rates of chronic truancy. The variables in the model of best fit accounted for 16% of the change in rates of chronic truancy. Principals reported doing well at creating opportunities for students to attach and be involved in school but that they needed to improve on building relationships to effectively increase social bonding in their middle schools. Conclusions. Student success is dependent on not only what the student brings to the school environment but what the school environment provides to the student. Creating an environment for students to thrive and succeed relies on the opportunities for social bonding in the middle school. Truancy prevention and school engagement is a shared responsibility.