Bill would define healthy kids who miss school as neglected - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Bill would define healthy kids who miss school as 'neglected'

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Should healthy students who don't have a good reason to be habitually absent from school be classified as neglected?

This question is what legislators are contemplating in a bill that recently passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 404, which was passed and referred to the full Senate, provides an exception for home-schooled kids and is limited to otherwise physically healthy and presumed safe kids.

The bill was introduced March 1 by Sens. Donald H. Cookman, D-Hampshire; Ron Stollings, D-Boone; Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier; Bob Williams, D-Taylor; Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio; Mike Green, D-Raleigh and Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

However, this isn't the first time this issue has been brought up before the Legislature.

A similar call to action took place last year when Nicholas County Circuit Judge Gary L. Johnson spoke to the House Education Committee about providing a more unified definition of educational neglect.

In that meeting, Johnson talked about how his truancy program raised attendance by 5 percent in the past few years.  He said the importance of creating such a uniform definition is so every county's students are treated equally in court proceedings.

Barbour County Circuit Judge Alan Moats also has been active in the truancy initiative. In a previous meeting with legislators, Moats said he thought the abuse and neglect statute needs to change.

Although it would not approach the level of physical harm, Moats argued at that time it would constitute mental harm because it deprives kids of the constitutional right to education.