'Every DAy in School' program hopes to cut down on unexcused absences

'Every DAy in School' program hopes to cut down on unexcused absences

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County is working to lower the number of students who are missing school with unexcused absences.

Last year, 66 percent of students at Hamilton Middle School had five or more absences.

The county hopes with a new initiative, those numbers at Hamilton and at other schools in the county will go down.

"When I was in school, you didn't get an option," Tarus Williamson said.

That may have been the case when Williamson was growing up in Memphis, but she knows not everyone has that mindset anymore.

"We don't want to be in the business of prosecuting parents. We don't want to be in the business of bringing kids into court," Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said.

In an effort to combat issues of unexcused absences, the DA's office is bringing the "Every DAy in School" program to Shelby County.

This program will place advocates in Shelby County schools with high numbers of truancy students.

Last school year, 60 percent of Gardenview and Springdale elementary school students had five or more unexcused absences. Douglass Elementary School was at 59 percent. Woodstock was at 60 and A. Maceo Walker was at 58 percent.

"If you need a uniform, if your child is getting bullied, if your child is being threatened or intimidated by gang members and that's why they're not coming to school, we need to know those things," Weirich said.

"Five days might not seem like a lot, but that's enough to really put a child at a disadvantage and really have a significant impact on their future," Keith Blanchard, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Memphis, said.

As a parent and grandparent, Williamson doesn't want to see a negative impact on kids. She knows being in school could keep them on the right path.

"A child can get shot or get hit by a car, you never know. If you were at school, then a parent wouldn't wonder," Williamson said.

Here is a list of the 28 schools who are participating in the Every DAy in School program:

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