The Metro-Student Attendance Center (M-SAC) is a program operated by the Davidson County Juvenile Court in partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools and the Metro Nashville Police Department with the goal of decreasing truancy rates in Nashville schools by addressing the root causes of truancy through a coordinated, strategic intervention process. M-SAC will seek to enhance and strengthen the positive long-term outlook for school-aged youth and their educational, social and economic opportunities.
M-SAC opened in 2008 after Mayor Karl Dean provided funding for the program in the city’s operating budget. After Mayor Dean’s first announcement of a truancy reduction center at a truancy summit in March of that year, representatives from Police, Schools and Juvenile Court came together to develop formal agreements on how to reduce student truancy.
Students are brought to M-SAC after being detained by police for loitering during school hours or they can also be referred by Metro Schools because of truancy concerns that have not been resolved through the school’s prevention efforts. M-SAC will also focus on both prevention and intervention for truancy and loitering matters.
Under the leadership of Judge Sheila Calloway, M-SAC has undergone changes in its operations. M-SAC is now staffed by Probation Officers, Social Work Techs, supports staff, and a Magistrate/ Director who handles and hears all of the truancy, educational neglect, and loitering cases. Also, three (3) staff members of the community partners Metro Public Schools and Metro Police Department report to M-SAC daily as well.
If a student is brought into M-SAC for loitering, a probation officer will talk to the student and parent to determine the reasons for the student being out of school. The students have an educational resource room where they are able to access computers and complete school work while waiting on their parent to arrive to pick them up from M-SAC. Intervention plans are developed by the probation officer, the student, and their parent/guardian. The student’s compliance with the compulsory school attendance law and loitering ordinance is monitored over a period of six to twelve weeks by MSAC staff with the collaboration of Metro School Truancy Intervention Specialists. Cases are handled using a tiered system that provides for families to access the resources that will help in resolving any issues that lead to truancy without court intervention initially. However, if there is a lack of compliance or a lack of improvement by families, cases will be escalated to community court or MSAC Court reviews and violation dockets.
Community Court is a court hearing that will be scheduled for children with a slight history of attendance issues to attend court at one of the cluster schools. Court is held right in the community at the school. This gives the child and their parent an opportunity to receive the assistance that they need without being required to attend a formal court setting. They also have a review session about a month after community court.
In October 2015, the building underwent minor renovations to convert a recreation room into a courtroom. Since then, all cases involving truancy and educational neglect have been handled at the M-SAC building rather than having those families reporting to Juvenile Court. There has also been an increase in the number of Community Court sessions offered each year to reach more families. There is also an increased focus on child and parent accountability. MSAC is working with the Metro Schools to ensure that parent engagement increases. Research shows that this will have a direct correlation on reducing truancy.
M-SAC will continue to partner with preventions programs and will also begin to offer prevention programs as well.
For more information, please call (615) 862-MSAC (6722).