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[Susan notes: This is an important letter. We don't hear much about schools' role in truancy. My experience is that when a kid who has been truant finally does make it to school, the school finds a reason to suspend him, creating a situation worse than Catch-22.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

I applaud âMistaking Attendance,â by Harold O. Levy and Kimberly Henry (Op-Ed, Sept. 2), for unmasking the true statistics of truancy.

I take issue, however, with the use of the term âcasualâ to describe truants. Too often truancy conjures a notion of joy riding and acting like Ferris Bueller on a day off. This view undermines the seriousness of truancy and how to address it.

A recent survey of 800 truant youths in Boston conducted by Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority police officers found that many youths were truant because of school policies (they had been suspended, expelled or told to leave because they arrived after the starting bell).

Some explained that they were in dire straits: they were scared of being beaten or bullied at school, they were pregnant, they had trouble in school, or, in the voice of one 14-year-old, âIâm so depressed, I canât keep my head up.â

Truants come in all shapes and sizes, and until schools recognize this and its role in causing truancy, we will see more mistakes on attendance â not fewer.

The writer is managing director of the Juvenile Justice Center at Suffolk University Law School.

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Lisa Thurau-Gray

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