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The Boston Strategy to Improve Student Attendance (START)

Working in cooperation with the Boston School Department and numerous government, non-profit, and faith-based agencies, the Boston Police Department has worked to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to address the problem of truancy in Boston schools. Building upon the city’s recent productive efforts to reduce youth violence, this strategy focuses on greater involvement by both students and their families in educational and after-school programs. It also seeks to address issues that typically contribute to repeated absenteeism (such as school safety, drug use, etc.) through a variety of prevention and intervention methods, as well as strengthened enforcement where necessary.

Truancy has been identified by the Boston Police Department (BPD) and Boston Public Schools (BPS) as a significant indicator that a youth is at risk to fail in school and become involved in criminal activity. Truancy sweeps were initiated by BPD and the Boston Public School Department. Youth who are identified on these sweeps receive follow up services from the YMCA of Greater Boston through the Promoting Higher Attendance Team (PHAT). An effort is made to positively engage each youth who is involved in initial contact so that they are more likely to agree to accept services beyond contact. The youth’s parents and school are notified in order to verify the information provided by the youth and to make the involvement of the PHAT team known. The emphasis of PHAT is on initiating and coordinating services through communication and collaboration with other agencies (school, police, probation, social service programs, etc.) who may or may not already be involved with the truant youth. The Promoting Higher Attendance Team creates a supportive, caring and professional environment that instills a sense of hope and motivation which will enable students to achieve academic and personal success.

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