School truancy is common in the United States; however, youths’ perspectives on the underlying reasons for and the best ways to curtail this phenomenon are lacking. This project sought to better understand what factors contribute to youths’ decisions to skip classes or ditch full days of school over time and to solicit youths’ recommendations on how to reduce truancy and improve system functioning. We used a community partnered qualitative descriptive approach to conduct in-depth interviews with 39 youths with a history of truancy from South and East Los Angeles. Youths’ experiences and recommendations illustrate the multiple factors that influence school truancy and suggest potential leverage points for reducing truancy, including modifications to the school environment to increase student engagement; a more effective school response to address truancy; and further involvement and engagement of parents. Researchers, policy makers, and school practitioners can use results to help inform efforts to address school truancy.


Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism, Qualitative, Community-Partnered Research

Author Bio(s)

Lauren Gase, MPH, is the Chief of Health and Policy Assessment in the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. In this role, she leads a number of assessment and evaluation projects to examine the reach, impact and effectiveness of policy and programmatic strategies to improve health behaviors and reduce chronic disease. She also leads the Division’s work on the social determinants of health, including identifying ways to improve health through education and juvenile justice system interventions.

Amelia Defosset, MPH, is a research analyst in the Division for Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Her research interests include health disparities, the intersectionality of social systems, policy, and health, and environmental change obesity-prevention strategies.

Raymond Perry, MD, MSHS, is the Medical Director of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court Health Services. Both as a researcher and a clinician, he has worked extensively with high-risk adolescents.

Tony Kuo, MD, MSHS, is Director of the Office of Senior Health in the County of Los Angeles and Deputy Director for the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. He is also Assistant Professor of Family Medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Kuo's academic interests and work have included federally funded research/evaluation studies, peer-reviewed publications, and other efforts in chronic disease prevention and control; patient-centered care; nutrition and physical activity promotion; tobacco control policy; and senior health.


The authors thank Juan Pena, Mario Rodriguez, and Nafeesa Toney from the Youth Justice Coalition for serving as youth research assistants. The research described was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Advancing Translational Science UCLA CTSI [grant numbers: UL1TR000124 and TL1TR000121]. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views or the official position of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the University of California, Los Angeles, or the funding agencies.

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