For Immediate Release
Release Date: 04/11/2012
New EBR Truancy Center on course to open this fall
A long-awaited truancy center to help boost school attendance and reduce juvenile crime in East Baton Rouge Parish is on schedule to open its doors this fall.
The project recently cleared its final major hurdle when Gov. Bobby Jindal signed off on a three-year, no-cost lease that will allow the new Family and Youth Service Center of East Baton Rouge to use the former site of the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired on Government Street.
The truancy center project actually began in 2008, when Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden, District Attorney Hillar Moore, former School Board Superintendent John Dilworth, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and former Chief of Police Jeff LeDuff began working together to address the correlation between high drop-out rates and juvenile crime.
These founding partners worked together with other members of the community in three community-wide workshops that resulted in the goal of “one-stop” location where children and families could access the resources they need to improve attendance.
“When we first started on this journey, it was very clear statistics showed a correlation between high truancy rates and crime,” Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden said. “We came together a number of years ago and began to deal with this pressing issue. A one stop truancy center emerged as the primary tool. With the help of the Governor’s office the truancy center is about to become a reality. It is a phase in a long process that together we feel we can make our neighborhoods safer.”
The partners also looked at a number of local properties for the new truancy center before settling on the former School for the Visually Impaired as the optimum location. The school operated at the location from 1898 until 2009, when it was relocated onto the property of the Louisiana School for the Deaf on Brightside Lane.
“The Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired property is a great location for our partners to use to fight truancy and ensure local resources are leveraged together to prevent unexcused absences from school and reduce juvenile delinquency,” Gov. Bobby Jindal said. “We look forward to the official opening of the truancy prevention center later this year.”
The founding partners have provided the following resources to fund operations on the new truancy center:
• The state has provided a three-year lease of the property to the East Baton Rouge School Board without compensation
• The East Baton Rouge School Board has committed $100,000 in annual operating funds for a three-year period.
• The Mayor-President on behalf of the City-Parish has committed $100,000 in annual operating funds for a 3 year period.
• The Sheriff of East Baton Rouge has committed $100,000 in annual operating funds for a three year period.
• The District Attorney of East Baton Rouge has committed $100,000 in annual operating funds for a 3 year period.
• The Wilson Foundation has committed $100,000 in technology funds for the first year of operations
District Attorney Hillar Moore said a lot of work remains ahead for the partners as they work together to address a situation that has arisen over time and cannot be solved overnight.
“We have committed to continue this work together for our kids,” Moore said. “It is their needs that will continue to guide our path forward.”
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux agreed that the new truancy center will play an important role in helping students stay in school and out of trouble.
“I am proud to be part of the this innovative partnership between private entities, the District Attorney, the School Board, the City- Parish and the State of Louisiana; all working together to address the needs of academically at-risk children and their families in East Baton Rouge Parish by delivering coordinated and timely services resulting in a safer and better Baton Rouge,” Gautreaux said.
The lead occupant on the nine-acre Government Street site will be the Truancy Assessment and Service Center, a state funded organization that has pioneered a successful intervention model to reduce truancy across the state, including in the parish of East Baton Rouge. During the last 13 years, this small organization has improved attendance in approximately 80 percent of the cases referred to them.
Their intervention model responds to incidents of truancy by assessing and intervening in the underlying causes of truancy that can include economic, health, and educational disabilities. This model can now be replicated across our entire parish. To assist in this effort, the new Family and Youth Services Center invites all organization currently attempting to provide services to reduce truancy to co-locate in a “neighborhood place” at this one property so that children and their families only have to make “one stop.”
Already committed to participate at this location are the Mayor’s Office of juvenile Services, the District Attorney’s Juvenile and Truancy coordinator, the Sheriff’s and Chief’s School-Drug task forces, the School Board’s Children Welfare and Attendance Unit, the state Office of Children Services and the Capital Area Health Services District. Discussions are also currently underway with numerous non-profit groups.
The new truancy center was also applauded by Interim East Baton Rouge School Superintendent Carlos Sam.
"We are very pleased to be a part of what we regard as a model collaborative that will enable this community to more effectively combat truancy and meet truant students at their point of need," Sam said.
All those who seek to work together to reduce the high rate of drop-out and truancy in our community are welcome to join us in this partnership so that everything and everyone is in place to make a difference with the beginning of the school year this fall.
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