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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Divert to Engage: The Impact of a Partnership Between a School District, School Police, and a City on Student Attendance

  • Advisor(s): Christie, Christina
  • Durkin, Diane
  • et al.

School attendance is the strongest predictor of high school graduation. Through a mixed methods design, using independent samples t-tests together with student interviews, this study examined a partnership program’s impact on school attendance as an indicator of academic achievement and predictor to graduation. The program is part of a partnership between a school district, school police department, and city government. The research focused on the experiences of 13- to 17-year-old students who were referred to Los Angeles Unified School District Pupil Services and Attendance (PSA) counselors at FamilySource community agencies after committing minor law infractions through the partnership’s arrest diversion program. The study used a systems theoretical approach, the 40 Developmental Assets framework, and the program’s theory of change to illuminate how the program addresses individual, family, school, and community factors.

Findings revealed that over 65% of students (N=129) who were referred to interventions by a PSA counselor followed through and engaged in one or more of the recommended interventions. Types of intervention referrals included drug counseling, individual counseling, youth development services and other services, such as anger management and recreational programs. No statistically significant differences were found in attendance rates between students who did engage in recommended interventions and those who did not. However, regardless of engagement in service interventions, 68.8% of students were not chronically absent. Student interviews revealed that the initial intake assessment with the PSA counselor may itself be an intervention that has a positive effect on students, regardless of their subsequent engagement in referral recommendations. The strongest impact of the program was on internal developmental assets, particularly commitment to learning and positive self-identity. The study shows some evidence of a promising program that diverts students away from the juvenile justice system by impacting psychosocial assets and thus educational outcomes such as attendance.

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