Officer Khris Steadman, a 20-year veteran of the Shawnee police department, took over recently as the S.T.A.R.T officer for the Shawnee School district. S.T.A.R.T, or Stop Truancy And Reduce Tardiness, has reported a 50 percent decline in drop-out rates for Shawnee school’s system since the program’s inception.


Officer Khris Steadman, a 20-year veteran of the Shawnee police department, took over recently as the S.T.A.R.T officer for the Shawnee School district. S.T.A.R.T, or Stop Truancy And Reduce Tardiness, has reported a 50 percent decline in drop-out rates for Shawnee school’s system since the program’s inception.
“My role in this program is not about being the enemy, it’s about being a positive role model and to help some of these kids straighten out any problems they may have,” Steadman said. “What I do is a mix of counseling and enforcement, our goal is to end truancy.”
 The program assigns a police officer to Shawnee High School. When a student become truant or tardy more than the allotted amount, the officer is then notified and will go to the student’s home to speak with the parents and the child.
“When you have a 18-year-old freshman, he’s not going to want to go to regular classes,” Steadman said. For these students night school, or alternative school is available.”
Steadman said that 10 citations were issued in the last two weeks due to recent school closings.
“We want to set good habits for students so they become habitual attendees and not habitually truants,” Marilyn Bradford, Shawnee School Superintendent said. “The program has had a tremendous impact on reducing the number of truancies at Shawnee High.”
Paul Miburn, a former teacher, was recognized at the S.T.A.R.T board meeting as the founding force behind S.T.A.R.T. after he introduced the truancy issue in front of a group of local community leaders in 2006.
“People who drop out are the last to get a job and the first to be laid off, and they usually end up on government assistance,” Milburn said. “We hope to continue to lower the dropout rate here in Shawnee.”
Chris Thomas, administrator of support services for the Shawnee Police Department, said the success of the S.T.A.R.T program has led the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs to award $40,000 to help continue the program. The program started with an initial grant of $150,000.
“We will need additional funds to continue the program,” Thomas said. “This will come from either the schools taking over, or from another grant.”
Thomas said that the reduction in the dropout rate was due too habitually truant children being home schooled, enlisting in Job Corp, and enrolling in alternative schools.
“A lot of kids just don’t have that adult in their lives to guide them,” Thomas said.
“We are now a model program that other cities are looking toward for guidance,” Police Chief Russ Frantz said. “We are making more productive, employable citizens in Shawnee. A high school education almost isn’t enough anymore.”
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Robby Short may be contacted by calling 214-3934