"You're off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!" This, in the words of Dr. Seuss, coins the importance of school as a gait way to better places. School commences soon and it is the starting place for our children to climb the mountain towards their dreams and future.

Truancy is the first sign of trouble on the climb toward a child’s success; the first indicator that a child is losing his or her way. When children start skipping school, they are telling their parents, school officials and our community at-large that they are in trouble and need our help, if they are to keep moving toward great places in life.

Children who become truant often eventually drop out of school and are put at a long-term disadvantage in becoming productive citizens. High school dropouts, for example, are two and a half times more likely to be on welfare than high school graduates and increase societal costs. In addition, high school dropouts who are employed earn much lower salaries. A child who becomes truant and eventually drops out of high school too often sets themselves up for a life leading nowhere and full of struggle.

What’s worse than nowhere and lifetime struggle? Truancy is a gateway to crime. High rates of truancy are linked to high daytime burglary rates, high vandalism, and drug related crimes. In fact, truancy can be considered a gateway to the school-to-prison pipeline, as truancy is widely regarded as the most powerful predictor of juvenile delinquent behavior. This likewise increases societal costs for our justice system and jails. Furthermore, truancy has repercussions far beyond the individual child and economic expense to citizens, it can affect the overall success of schools, other students, and our communities at large.

In the 2017-2018 school year, an estimated 1149 children were considered chronically absent in Jackson County, West Virginia. Combating truancy is one of the first ways that a community can reach out quickly to disaffect the negative impact on a child’s future. While the court and school officials in Jackson County are diligently pursuing resources both financially and strategically to combat truancy, each school and each community should likewise decide which steps to take to help reduce truancy. These decisions should be made inclusive with the active involvement of parents, educators, law enforcement personnel, magistrates, judges, representatives from social service, community and religious organizations.

While truancy is a serious problem in our schools and across the United States, particularly in light of the current drug epidemic we face, the good news is that solutions do exist to help keep children in school. Investing in these solutions is an investment in the children who will be the next generation of workers, innovators, and leaders. It is an investment in better places for our future—for both the children and ourselves.