School aims to cut Indian absenteeism
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 24, 2007


Georgann Yara

A new program in the Tempe Elementary School District aims to keep more of its Native American students in class.

About 25 percent of the district's 1,200 Native American students are classified as having chronic attendance problems, meaning they missed 10 or more school days last year, district Indian Education supervisor Peggy Roupe said

The Native American Absentee Prevention Program was created to alleviate this problem by bridging the gap between these families and the educational institution.

Liaisons will hold parent meetings, make home visits and stay in touch with families to make sure they are getting the help they need so their children make it to school, Roupe said.

Transportation, financial difficulties, custody issues, healthcare and religious or cultural traditions are among the major reasons for the high rate of absenteeism, Roupe said. If surviving or making ends meet is a daily struggle, getting to class on time every day does not rank so high on the priority list, she said.

Resources could range from providing an alarm clock to providing transportation to and from a doctor's office so a student does not have to miss a whole day for an appointment.

The $3,500 program is paid for by a grant that funds the district's multicultural programs.

Frank and Wood elementary and Fees middle schools have the highest number of Native American students in the district, Roupe said.

She said the school setting is one in which Indian parents often are not comfortable. Sometimes parents have a negative perception of school, Roupe said, possibly due to experiences with Indian boarding schools.