Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Thomas McLaughlin


Academic performance is a growing concern for students in kindergarten through Grade 3 (K-3) in the United States, especially those students with a high number of unauthorized absences (i.e., a high truancy rate). When students are absent from school, they may have a lower chance of succeeding academically compared to students with better attendance. School social workers can help these students address barriers to attendance, such as student or family member health, poverty, and psychological and social concerns, and could benefit from more insight on how to effectively engage parents, students, school personnel, and community agencies in eliminating truancy. The focus of this research was on exploring school social workers' perceptions of effective truancy interventions provided for primary school students in Grades K-3. The theoretical framework consisted of systems theory and empowerment theory. As part of this action research study, 12 school social workers in the U.S. state of Virginia shared their experience of being a part of an interdisciplinary team and related their perceptions of their role in addressing truancy. Analysis of data from individual interviews, surveys, and focus groups revealed four themes (assessment of truancy in K-3, enforcement of the state’s compulsory attendance law, the impact of truancy, and reduction of truancy) and identified several effective truancy strategies. The implications for positive social change for social work policy and practice include a potential increase in teacher and parental engagement and the identification of effective intervention strategies to decrease the rates of chronic truancy.

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