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Schools Try Wakeup Calls for Chronically Tardy Students

Approximately 500 chronically tardy or truant students at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, Mass., recently began receiving daily automated wakeup calls from their principal.

As Reuters' Zach Howard notes, such robo-calls are generally used to notify parents of weather-related school delays and cancellations - but in this case, they've got a different purpose. "'It's 6:15 and it's Durfee High School calling,' booms the voice of Principal Paul Marshall of B.M.C. Durfee High School in a pre-recorded call set to ring through to about 500 of the school's 2,400 students … The wakeup message is followed by Principal Marshall explaining that a student has been excessively late or absent, and a request to get to school on time," Howard writes.

Principal Marshall says the calls are part of the school's larger effort to achieve a 95 percent attendance rate for the school year - currently, he says, the rate is approximately 88 percent. "In addition to getting kids into school and on time, Marshall said the initiative is also aimed at improving connections with parents," writes The Fall River Herald News' Will Richmond. "Marshall said parents of chronically tardy or absent will receive messages left during morning and evening calls telling them to contact school officials about the child's attendance. He said the calls will continue until a parent responds to the school. 'We recognize that not all parents are being neglectful as a parent,' Marshall said. 'There might be real reasons why a student isn't coming to school and maybe we can be a resource for that family.'"

According to The Boston Globe's Akilah Johnson, several other schools across the U.S. are following suit. "[The] Boston Public Schools are in the beginning stages of a plan to direct recorded phone messages from celebrities to students who persistently show up late for school, or do not come at all," Johnson writes. "School districts throughout the country are trying to bring truants and tardy students back to school before they fall too far behind. In Anaheim, Calif., schools are using a GPS-monitoring system to keep tabs on students with four or more unexcused absences. And New York City launched a 'Wake Up! NYC' campaign last month using recorded wake-up messages from celebrities such as Magic Johnson and R&B singer Trey Songz."