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Charleston Gazette-Mail editorial: Truancy, tardiness have lasting consequences

Despite lawmakers’ and school officials’ best efforts, tardiness and truancy remain problems among students — and parents.

Students at four of Charleston’s West Side elementary schools and its middle school were tardy nearly 6,000 times last school year alone, the Gazette-Mail’s Samuel Speciale reported.

That’s cause for concern.

Some areas of the West Side face myriad problems: drugs, crime, low socioeconomic status, unemployment. When the parents are dealing with issues as debilitating as these, it’s easy to see how it affects their school-age children. Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring pointed out the kids who rack up most of the tardies are the ones who face troubles outside of school.

“We’re always playing catch-up with these kids,” he said. “But we also have to try and get them on track.”

Duerring, other school officials and West Side community leaders have formed a task force aimed at addressing a variety of concerns. In addition to tardiness and truancy, schools on the West Side must deal with falling test scores, discipline and other problems that could arguably be tied to kids missing too much time in the classroom.

It’s easy to make generalizations about why kids arrive late to school or miss instruction entirely. Each family unit and child is unique and has problems that might not be easily solved by conventional methods.

However one student’s tardiness or absenteeism can be detrimental not only to that student, but the classroom as a whole. Students can become distracted, making it difficult for the teacher to complete lessons.

Eventually, the classroom falls behind schedule and may not meet certain benchmarks as the school year progresses. Come test time, the students aren’t as prepared as they should be. That carries over into the next academic year.

Having a solid educational background is key. Knowledge truly is power, but how can kids succeed in life and break the cycle of poverty if they don’t have the ability?

We applaud the task force for taking steps to recognize and address the problems our children face, and urge parents to — no matter what’s going on at home — equip their children with a strong educational foundation that can help them succeed in life.


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