It really does pay to stay in school

Now you’ve been in school a week. Some of you will be happy with your teachers and classes, and some will not. You might even think about truancy. Truancy is staying away from school without permission. Don’t do it! Research has found that it’s not good for the student who has significantly higher unemployment rates than those students who stay in high school and especially college. Another reason that it is a law to stay in school is that truancy is a gateway to later crime. The Honorable Judge Bruce Newman wrote an article stating that:

“Students who become truant and eventually drop out of school, set themselves up for a life of struggle by putting themselves at a long-term disadvantage. High school dropouts, for example, are 2 1/2 times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates. … In addition, high school dropouts who were employed earned much lower salaries. When kids skip school, they tend to get into trouble. More that 82 percent of prisoners today are school dropouts.”

And yes, there are gifted students who get bored, but here’s an idea: If you keep your grades up, you can attend Kauai Community College for one credit a semester in your junior year and get both high school and college credit for it. In your senior year, you can take two.

In another study, a new report from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University finds that young adult high school dropouts-individuals aged 16 to 24 face even more difficulty in the labor market. The report, “The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers,” also examines other problems such as lower earnings and higher incarceration rates that affect young adult dropouts more disproportionately than their better-educated peers. It concludes that the average high school dropout will have a negative net fiscal contribution to society of nearly $5,200, while the average high school graduate generates a positive lifetime net fiscal contribution of $287,000 from age 18 to 64.”

What that means is that an average dropout costs everyone else $5,200 to pay for their court costs, jail time, and welfare costs. While the average high school graduate puts into society $287,000 for the same age span. With all the concern about Medicare and Social Security rates decreasing for our elder kupuna, it would benefit us all if people could carry their own financial weight, and that seems to be best done by staying in school.

Since everyone benefits from kids staying in school, maybe we ought to focus on keeping them there. The first focus is on the actual law that our kids would be breaking, with the understanding that the parents are responsible for getting their children to school.

Hawaii Revised Statute 571-11 (2-C) states that the court shall have jurisdiction over a juvenile. “Who is neither attending school nor receiving educational services required by law whether through the child’s own misbehavior or nonattendance.”

These are the legal exceptions:

1. The child is physically or mentally unable to attend school. This needs a doctor’s note.

2. The child is 15 or over, suitably employed, and has been excused by the superintendent, his representative, or by a family court judge.

a. The employer must notify the school within 3 days upon termination of the child’s employment.

3. The child has graduated from high school.

4. The child is enrolled in an appropriate alternative educational program as approved by the superintendent or his representative.

5. The child is home schooled, and that intent has been submitted to the principal of the public school that the child would otherwise be attending.

6. The child is 16.

7. The principal has determined that the child has engaged in disruptive behavior to other students, teachers, or staff.

8. The principal, a teacher or counselor, and an adult having legal responsibility for the child develop an alternative educational plan.

Truancy is also addressed in the Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) Chapter 19. It states “’Truancy’ means a student is absent from class(es) or the school campus without authorization from the principal or designee.” (p.19-16) Once students get on a school bus, or are dropped off on a school campus, they need to stay in school unless they get permission to leave from the office. This also means that they need to be in the classes that they are supposed to be in while on campus. Students can’t be in the rest room, school library, or another teacher’s classroom when they are supposed to be in a specific class, without permission from their scheduled teacher. On Kauai, the consequences of truancy are detention and detainment, by Kauai Police Department.

Schools are considered “in loco parentis” (in place of the parents). Everyone is concerned about student safety as well as education. No one wants our children to become victims of accidents or violent acts while they are supposed to be safe in school.

Sometimes students have to be dropped off early at school before the parent goes to work. They might want to leave campus to get breakfast with friends, but because of the law, they would be detained for truancy. All schools serve breakfasts for students. If a child wants to eat off campus with a friend, the parent cannot drop the student off at school first, without a possible detainment for truancy. Make another plan.

Sometimes parents home school students. They must submit an annual plan. Unless students are taking classes from an accredited school, their credits don’t transfer to a diploma, so they can’t walk at graduation with their friends. Kapaa High School Principal Daniel Hamada has witnessed that many parents return their students to the public school system. Besides the extra demands on the parents, it costs a minimum of $2,500 to home school one student, according to Clive Belfield, professor of economics at Queens College, City University of New York.

Schools have an automated calling system that calls the parents every time a child misses a class. Sometimes students erase the calls. Parents can also pay attention to report cards, which list how many days a student has been absent. Parents need to pay attention to their kids’ schooling. Parents who want their children to go to school are one of the best motivators for children to go to school!

Probably the most effective people to help kids stay in school are their peers. Encourage your classmates to come to school. Show them this article. Help them study.

There are three A’s that are important in a student’s experience that make them want to stay in school:

w Attendance: Students who lag in attendance often drop out because they become overwhelmed by what they’ve lost, and can’t catch up. Show up! Do your best! Get help from friends, family, or a school tutor as soon as you feel you don’t understand something. Trust that school staff wants you to succeed, and everyone needs you to have a bright future.

w Attachment: There has got to be something at school that kids feel bonded to. It can be peers (often a boyfriend or girlfriend), teachers or other staff, a specific class and desire to learn something, a team or club after school, etc. High school offers a once in a lifetime free chance to experiment and find out what you are good in, and what makes you happy in lots of different areas. Try different things. Get to know your guidance counselor, and get to know yourself.

w Achievement: Everyone wants to succeed. We want to know that we’ve learned something when our efforts are over. Behaviorists have learned that people will keep doing things when they get a “reward” for it. So school staff, friends and family: When you see someone do something great, or make improvements, praise it. Also, remember that failure often leads to success the next time. It isn’t an end. It’s part of the learning process, which shows you what you need to do next to succeed. Experiments fail all the time, but scientists don’t consider them failures. They’re testing theories. They learn what didn’t work. Schools have tutors to help in areas you’re having difficulty in. Check them out.

Because a democracy needs competent, educated people to make decisions for it, education became free for students. Think about it: Would you want people who can’t read, write, do math, or think, to vote and make decisions about our county, state or country? There will never be a time where you are offered so much for such a small investment, as high school. Let it serve you. Learn as much as you can. Try different things, to find out what makes you happy and show up. High school graduates earn over $8,000 more per year than dropouts. In 50 years of working that’s at least $400,000! It pays to stay in school!


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, go to


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