Michael Burns
Restorative Practices and Truancy
Pima County Attorney’s Office

1. Current Status/Position: ACT Truancy Program Coordinator
Pima County Attorney’s Office

2. Education Background: A graduate from the University of Arizona: BPA Correctional Administration and Northern Arizona University with a Masters Degree in Education with emphasis in counseling.

3. Informational Topic or Research Area: It takes more than a program to be successful in reducing truancy rates. A collaborative effort between schools, agencies and communities, and, the utilization of restorative practices has a better chance to complete the mission.

Recognizing that today’s truant may be tomorrow’s criminal, and that chronic truancyImage is a predictor of future criminal behavior, Pima County is dedicated to returning truant students to school.

Working in partnership with the Center for Juvenile Alternatives, law enforcement, school administrators, teachers, parents and students, the Pima County Attorney’s Office innovative and unique truancy enforcement program intervenes at the very beginning of the truancy cycle.

The ACT Now Truancy Program includes parent and student referrals to counseling and educational and parenting skills programs. The County Attorney cites and prosecutes parents as a last resort. This program has been studied and acclaimed by the Department of Justice as a national model for truancy enforcement programs.


Correlates of Truancy

The correlates of truancy fall into four broad categories:

  • Family factors. These include lack of guidance or parental supervision, domestic violence, poverty, drug or alcohol abuse in the home, lack of awareness of attendance laws, and differing attitudes toward education.
  • School factors. These include school climate issues—such as school size and attitudes of teachers, other students, and administrators—and inflexibility in meeting the diverse cultural and learning styles of the students. Schools often have inconsistent procedures in place for dealing with chronic absenteeism and may not have meaningful consequences available for truant youth (e.g., out-of-school suspension).
  • Economic influences. These include employed students, single-parent homes, high mobility rates, parents who hold multiple jobs, and a lack of affordable transportation and childcare.
  • Student variables. These include drug and alcohol abuse, lack of understanding of attendance laws, lack of social competence, mental health difficulties, and poor physical health.

Although not mentioned specifically, the community significantly influences the occurrence of truancy as well. Community factors are folded into the above four areas. For example, economic conditions and differing culturally based attitudes toward education are also important factors in the community.