Keeping Kids in School

Activating education and justice communities to support youth in crisis

In 2002, King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng and Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge (ret.) founded a voluntary, multidisciplinary, statewide organization, the Washington State Becca Task Force, to help support schools, courts, and service providers in carrying out the intent and goals of the mandatory attendance and at-risk youth laws, the “Becca laws.” The Becca Bill is a set of laws passed in 1995 in an effort to create a structured response for youth and families experiencing a crisis. That crisis may present itself as Truancy, Child in Need of Services (CHINS), or At-Risk Youth (ARY) petitions filed with the court. These petitions are known as status offenses in the State of Washington.

Missing as few as two days of school per month can dramatically affect the likelihood of high school graduation and be evidence of family instability. In the 2018-2019 School Year, Washington State had over one million students, of which 80,615 were considered chronically absent from school. Yet, fewer than 10,000 Truancy Petitions were filed in response. Additionally, CHINS, and ARY combined for a total of 1,742 petitions filed in the 2018-2019 School Year. This left 68,926 students and families unaccounted for. The Becca Taskforce continues to work collaboratively to expand and educate the community, schools, and courts on best practices and ways to engage youth and families in crisis to close this gap between youth and families that are unaccounted for and not receiving services.

What the Becca Task Force Does:

  • Partners in an annual state-wide conference. Since 2004 CCYJ and the Becca Task Force have partnered to host a conference where stakeholders gather to train, network, share best practices, and discuss issues and solutions related to the “Becca Laws”.
  • Fosters collaboration. The Becca Task Force hosts a monthly meeting and provides an online community for stakeholders to gather to share ideas, upcoming changes or challenges, as well as solutions and solidarity.  Topics include funding, accountability mechanisms, and best practices for intervening and engaging with families in crisis.
  • Educates stakeholders, including law makers. The Becca Task Force has recommended system reforms to better support young people and families. Most notably were 2011 recommendations for truancy reform. These recommendations are now codified in several House and Senate Bills.