Opinion

Truancy remains a problem even with law change

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A recently passed law will undoubtedly reduce the number of students considered truant.

The law changes the threshold from five to 10 unexcused absences before legal action can be taken against the child — and sometimes parents — to force school attendance.

 Lawmakers felt the change was necessary because the 5-day rule was costing the state too much money.

In part due to the 5-day rule, the number of truants referred to the court system increased 124 percent over the past 10 years. A recent study found that nearly a third of state students were considered truant.

“It’s placed so many kids in our court systems and has increased costs tremendously,” Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, told the Charleston Daily Mail.

Once the children are in the legal system, the court can send them to Division of Juvenile Services facilities, Walters explained. The cost for a 60-day evaluation period is $31,000 per child.

If a child is remanded to state custody, it increases the cost to $100,00 per year if housed in-state. Because there are so many children in the court system, some are sent out of state, increasing the cost to $109,000 a year.

Per capita, West Virginia leads the nation in institutionalized youth, Walters told the Daily Mail.

All of that seems a bit extreme for missing school. And the hope is that by upping the number of days to 10, the law will only affect children who are truly truant in their consistent refusal to attend school.

But there remains the disconnect of why so many students are missing five or more days? Why do parents think it’s OK to have little Johnny miss school without providing an excuse…

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