Serving the students and families of Maryland's First Judicial Circuit
Kendall Timmons, Regional Program Coordinator
Alison Bergeron, Case Manager (Somerset & Worcester Counties)
Myles Burgess, Case Manager (Wicomico County)
Nicole Higgins, Case Manager (Dorchester County)
The purpose of Truancy Reduction Court is to improve school attendance and positively affect the youth’s attitude about education through a nurturing approach. We make every effort to ultimately build a relationship between the family, the school, and the court, rather than using punitive or harsh measures such as having parents prosecuted in criminal court, or stigmatizing the child and further souring their outlook on education and the criminal justice system. A case manager works with the families to determine the reasons for poor attendance and makes referrals for community-based services when appropriate.
The Truancy Reduction Program is committed to improving student attendance, enriching academic achievement, and researching identifiers that cause chronic truancy. We strive to establish partnerships with community agencies to help engage, equip, and support our local schools in their efforts to enhance the academic success of all students.
Maryland’s Truancy Reduction Program was first implemented during the 2001 school year. This problem-solving court was created to battle the oppressive volume of youth whom were truant during that particular year. It has been widely noted that truant behavior is commonly linked to other forms of delinquency, thus leading to negative contact with law enforcement and subsequent incarceration.
In 2004, the General Assembly created the Truancy Reduction Pilot Program (HB1443) to serve the needs of students and families within Maryland’s First Judicial Circuit. Codified at §3-8C-01 through §3-8C-10, the program, now simply known as the Truancy Reduction Program (TRP), began in Wicomico County in December 2004. It continued to develop throughout the lower eastern shore with the additions of Somerset County (November 2005), Worcester County (January 2007), and Dorchester County (March 2007).
Serving more than 222 students in the 2020 fiscal year, the TRP is providing full service truancy case management and utilizing a proactive approach designed to address the causes of truancy and improve the student’s attendance, achievement, and attachment at school. TRP serves as a proactive intervention rather than a punitive reaction.
Effective July 1, 2017, Maryland law requires that any child between the ages of 5 and 18 attend school on a regular basis. When a student has an accumulated amount of unexcused absences, the Board of Education files a petition with the court. The student and their parent(s) or guardian(s) are summonsed to appear before the court. The court reviews records and obtains information from the Board of Education, the student, and parent(s) or guardian(s). If the student is found truant, they must participate in the Truancy Reduction Program.
If a child is adjudicated to be truant from school, all parties are given the opportunity to discuss reasons as to what they feel is contributing to the child’s truancy. At that time, the Judge or Magistrate will order the student to participate in TRP and to undergo a full family assessment, conducted by a private provider at no cost to the family. The report and recommendations provided in the full family assessment help TRP refer students and families to services and interventions that improve the overall welfare of the child as well as his/her attendance.
During participation in the program, the Judge or Magistrate will order the student to attend school. The student and his/her parent(s) or guardian(s) will also be ordered to report to court, on time, for regular review hearings. Hearings are held as deemed appropriate by the court, based on the student’s progress.
A parent or guardian’s failure to send a child to school or see that the child attends school may result in a misdemeanor criminal charge or fine. The purpose of the Truancy Reduction Program, however, is to act as a problem-solving court. Successful participants will have no record made of their participation in the program. Let TRP help you. Cooperation with the program benefits you and your child.