D.C. launching anti-truancy program

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (photo: Mike Conneen)

D.C. Public Schools officials say 20 percent of District students miss 15-days of school or more each year.

It's an issue that's plagued D.C. schools for years.

But the District government has launched a new anti-truancy campaign, encouraging middle and high school students to show up for class and get a diploma.

Anacostia high school senior De'Andre Horne is literally the poster child for D.C.'s new anti-truancy campaign.

Both of his parents work, but when they did catch him sleeping in or cutting class, they would get angry.

“Junior year, I was skipping school, I was coming in late everyday,” De’Andre says.

But ultimately, he says it was a conversation with his football coach that changed his attitude. His coach told him he needed to shape up if he wanted to play football in college.

De'Andre is one of five students from across D.C. featured in the campaign.

With a budget of $500,000, District officials say - in addition to radio commercials and transit ads - they're doing case management for repeat offenders and raffles rewarding good attendance.

“Did you know that young people who don't graduate from high school in their lifetime make almost 80 percent less than someone who does,” said Mayor Vincent Gray. “Think about that for a second.”

Despite the District having one of the nation's worst dropout rates year after year - Gray believes this campaign will work.

The anti-truancy campaign also includes a social media component. In fact, outside Anacostia and other local schools there are many signs encouraging students to text to friends positive messages like "education is a must" or "don't drop out now. think about your future."

“We ask kids to sign up for text messages, send them reminders to wake up for school on time, sending them encouraging messages throughout the year, constantly promoting the message of school promotion,” said Deputy Mayor for Education De'Shawn Wright.

De'Andre hopes to attend Langston University in Oklahoma next year, studying psychology or biology.

He also hopes his story will motivate his peers.

“I know a lot of people and when they see what I'm doing they might wanna do it,” De’Andre says.