The Nebo Attendance Court (NAC) program is in its third year of operation in Nebo School District. It was modeled after the Kentucky truancy model developed by Judge Joan Byers as an alternative to sending students to Juvenile Court for Habitual Truancy. Under the program the school, student, parents, and program all work together to help the student improve poor attendance and poor grades.
When a student has missed the equivalent of 15 days of school or more as unexcused during the school year, a Habitual Truancy citation is issued according to Utah Law. A meeting is held at the school and the student and parents are given the option of participating with the NAC program instead of the student having a Juvenile Court record.
The NAC program requires that the student, at least one of their parents, and a school staff representative attend a hearing every other week at 3:30 p.m. At the hearing, the student reports their progress on grades and attendance to the attorney volunteering as a judge. The judge metes out consequences and encourages positive changes in attendance and grades. (NAC hearings are closed to the public.) NAC school representatives follow up at the school to help the student succeed. Parents are also required to take an active role in monitoring their student’s attendance and daily assignments. Once students form a good attendance pattern, they are released from the program. If they revert back to poor attendance during that school year, they may be called back to the program or referred on to Juvenile Court.
As added incentives, students can earn up to three tickets each court hearing (or two week period) for improved attendance and grades. Drawings for prizes are held at the end of each grading quarter.
Last year 76 students participated in the NAC program with 48 having significant improved attendance, 49 having improved grade point averages, and 46 having fewer failing grades.
“It’s not a perfect answer, but we are seeing true success on the part of students involved in the program,” said program coordinator, Carol Barker. “We are seeing better attendance overall by students and have far fewer referrals to Juvenile Court. At one point a few years ago, we had about 139 students referred to Juvenile Court. That number last year was less than 40.”
The program would not be as successful without the donated hours and the dedication of the attorneys that volunteer as judges for the program. The volunteer NAC judges are David Zeider of 1-800-Contacts, and Bryan Pratt of Holland & Hart for the Springville/Mapleton area court; Brent Bartholomew of the Guardian ad Litem’s office, and Morgan Fife of Robinson Seiler & Anderson/Spanish Fork area court; and Matthew Wride of Kirton & McConkie, and Scott Card of Fillmore and Spencer for the Payson area court. Randy Kester of Young, Kester & Petro also served as NAC judge during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. NAC also truly appreciates the donation of facilities for court time at the Springville and Payson City Justice Courts, and the Salem City Council room, and each city’s support for the program.