BY ANGELA CLEVELAND, M.S.ED., M.ED., MA
Excerpt from NJEA REVIEW April 2016 Edition
It can start gradually with a pattern of requests from a student: “May I go to nurse?”
It can start suddenly with a phone call: “My daughter is refusing to come to school!”
It can be a series of absences or tardies you identify when reviewing your class attendance: “Hmmm, why is he either absent or late to school most Mondays? What’s going on?”
For educators, identifying and meeting the needs of students who avoid school is confusing and challenging, and there is no formula that works in all situations. Educators struggle to find the right balance between encouraging students to attend and stay in class while allowing them the comfort of knowing they can leave if feeling overwhelmed. We know that the longer the student is out of school or class, the harder it is to return. The student faces questions from wellintentioned peers. Learning experiences are missed, and the assignments pile up. A cycle of stress, anxiety, and frustration mounts. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines “school refusal” as “the disorder of a child who refuses to go to school on a regular basis or has problems staying in school.” A child may struggle to attend school at all or to stay in school or class. The spectrum of symptoms can range from frequent complaints of headaches or stomachaches to outright defiance.
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