COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- After Ohio lawmakers passed a law to decriminalize skipping school, Northwest Local Schools are using a unique program that's gaining attention.
It looks and feels a little like a courtroom, but really it's a second chance. It's a diversion program, or safe council. It's a collaborative effort between the school district, Hamilton County Juvenile Court and others to address truancy and other issues.
"Referred students and parents come before me," Deanna Nadermann, the director of special projects for the county juvenile court, said. "We talk about what the barriers are. 'Why isn't the child going to school?'"
Juvenile court Judge John Williams said the procedures, process, intervention and meetings are all unofficial. That means, there's no juvenile record. The young people can admit to the charge and work to resolve the issue, be it truancy or something else.
Northwest Local Schools is the only district in Hamilton County currently doing this, but more districts will likely follow.
"We want to work with the Cincinnati Public School System," Williams said.
School administrators like Northwest Local Director of Community and Student Services Pauletta Crowley said truancy isn't the real issue. Many times, it's just a symptom of something else going on.
"We do have resources that we can help them with and put things in place to help them not only deal with their child's education, but to deal with the obstacles that they're facing in life itself," she said.
Officials said the program has a more-than-80 percent success rate.