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OJJDP News @ a Glance

This issue highlights a webinar where youth spoke candidly about their needs during reentry, an OJJDP grantee in Hawaii that offers youth healthy alternatives to gang membership, and how partnerships between Tribes and states benefit Native youth.
Message From the Administrator: Listening to Young People
OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan - OJJDP News @ a Glance, May 2022

Strategies for Addressing Truancy Among Tribal Youth

Thumbnail for Tribal Youth Resource Center publication, Supporting Tribal Youth Attendance Achievement: A Resource To Support Community-Based Prevention Programs

Educational trends for American Indian and Alaska Native youth can appear disheartening, with truancy and chronic absentee rates disproportionately high and the overall on-time high school graduation rate lower than the national average (see sidebar). To help Tribal communities identify factors contributing to chronic absenteeism and truancy, and to guide the development of programs to help keep Native youth in school, OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Resource Center has published Supporting Tribal Youth Attendance Achievement: A Resource To Support Community-Based Truancy Prevention Programs

“While there are many resources that focus on academic achievement and the importance of school attendance, there are a limited number that focus specifically on Tribal-specific issues,” explained Anna Clough, Codirector of the Tribal Youth Resource Center and lead author of the publication. “As we develop resources, we look to both Tribal- and non-Tribal-specific literature and scholarship to identify best and promising practices for Tribal youth.”

With Supporting Tribal Youth Attendance Achievement: A Resource To Support Community-Based Truancy Prevention Programs, the Tribal Youth Resource Center seeks to help Indigenous communities encourage youth to stay in school and graduate on time. The publication addresses truancy from a trauma-informed perspective that emphasizes youth resilience. It presents strategies Tribal communities are using to address and prevent truancy and identifies resources that are useful when developing prevention and intervention programs—particularly those designed for Tribal youth.

The publication opens with an introduction to truancy prevention and its consequences, then reviews educational policies impacting Tribal nations, factors that increase a youth’s risk for truancy and factors that reduce it, and strategies for developing truancy prevention programs. Real-world case studies illustrate different types of prevention programs and the appropriate settings for them; a series of program profiles offers additional insights.

The publication’s review of educational policies provides historical context for the conditions contemporary Tribal students encounter. It describes the missionary- and government-run schools espoused throughout the 19th century, for example. Supported by legislation, policies, and treaties, many schools sought to assimilate Native peoples into Western culture by separating children from their families and prohibiting traditional religious and cultural practices. Federal legislation passed in the 20th and 21st centuries has supported educational approaches that address the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students, but the consequences of early policies and practices persist.

Supporting Tribal Youth Attendance Achievement: A Resource To Support Community-Based Truancy Prevention Programs is the work of Tribal Youth Resource Center staff and other consultants with expertise in Tribal education program development, Ms. Clough said. “I hope that the information spurs honest conversation about the historical impact of federal education policy, the contemporary issues faced by Tribal youth, families, and communities, and consideration of the various ways Tribal youth can benefit from effective Tribal-school partnerships,” she said. “We are grateful to be a part of the work that impacts the lives of Tribal youth and their communities.”


OJJDP funded a three-part learning series focused on truancy prevention, presented in 2020 by the Tribal Youth Resource Center and the National Native Children’s Trauma Center. In 2021, the Tribal Youth Resource Center also hosted an online learning event, Talking Attendance: A Dialogue on Truancy Prevention.

Statistics Underscore Educational Needs in Indian Country

Data on school attendance and graduation rates for Native youth demonstrate the need for strategies to address and prevent truancy and chronic absenteeism. In a country of more than 330 million people, the 2020 U.S. Census identified just 9.7 million—2.9 percent of the total population—as American Indian or Alaska Native (alone or in combination with another race). Yet, American Indian and Alaska Native youth:

  • Had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism during the 2013–14 school year when compared to students from other races, with 22.8 percent of girls and 22.5 percent of boys missing 15 days or more. The overall rate for public school students was 14.2 percent.
  • Made up less than 1 percent of the U.S. student population in 2014  but experienced 2 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 3 percent of expulsions.
  • Had a 4-year high school graduation rate of 74 percent for the 2018–19 school year , the lowest of any race/ethnic group reported. The U.S. average was 86 percent.

“When we develop resources, we specifically focus on the needs of the communities that we serve,” Tribal Youth Resource Center Codirector Anna Clough said. “It is my hope that Tribal youth prevention programs can take Supporting Tribal Youth Attendance Achievement: A Resource To Support Community-Based Truancy Prevention Programs and utilize it as part of their overall program planning and program implementation or development.”


Date Created: August 2, 2022