Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

June 21, 2012

Truant students —  Mercer decline is welcomed news

— Mercer County’s new truancy program is making a big difference when it comes to keeping children in school.

A mere six months after the truancy program was launched, the number of students reported truant from local schools is down nearly 20 percent, according to statistics released by the Mercer County Circuit Court. That’s certainly an encouraging trend.

The school system has reported a 19.13 percent decline in truant students with truancy defined as five or more unexcused absences during the school year. The truancy program was launched in January and since that time the court has heard more than 200 cases involving chronically truant students in Mercer County.

As part of the truancy crackdown, truant students must appear before district court judges for judicatory hearings as juvenile status offenders. In the case of younger students, parents or guardians, cases are referred through the Department of Health and Human Resources for juvenile abuse and neglect cases before the Circuit Court.

Among the 118 active juvenile status offender cases, school officials have seen an 82.5 percent reduction in unexcused absences, with 52 percent of that group not missing a single day since their appearance before the judge. Among the 42 students involved in abuse and neglect petitions, school officials are reporting an 86.1 percent reduction in unexcused absences with 47.6 percent of that group logging perfect attendance since intervention by the Department of Health and Human Resources.

According to Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Omar Aboulhosn, the partnership between the school system, judicial system and Department of Health and Human Resources has significantly reduced incidences of truancy countywide.

“This is what has been the effect of the truancy program over all in the entire school system,” Aboulhosn said last week. “The numbers show from last year on June 1, 2011, to June 2, 2012, this year there were 845 less kids who were truant. That is a 19 percent reduction in truancy system wide. Once you get them in the court, we dramatically reduce their unexecused absences. The kids know there are real consequences for kids missing school. It’s a big deal. The other thing is the average daily attendance went up almost 2 whole percentage points. That means almost 200 more kids were in school every day this year compared to last year. What we have set up in Mercer County seems to be working really well. I don’t think any of us expected this much of a decrease in truancy.”

We agree. The program appears to be working. The decline in truancy rates for Mercer County schools is welcomed news.

The ultimate goal of the truancy program is simple — keep kids in school.

So parents and students would be wise to take notice of the new rules. Stay in school. Don’t be tardy. Don’t be truant. If you are, you — and your parents — could very well end up in court. A student with a high school diploma is much more likely to avoid falling into a cycle of poverty and crime. That’s why we must strive to keep kids in the classroom.

1
Text Only
Editorials
Columns
Poll

What is your favorite college football team? After voting, go to facebook.com/bdtonline to comment.

Marshall University
WVU Mountaineers
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Cavaliers
Other
     View Results
Facebook
Letters to the Editor