New specialists to battle school truancy

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Going back to school is challenging for most students. But some kids have trouble hitting the books year-round.

Now, there’s a new way for county school systems to crack down on those who aren’t coming to school.

As students head back to school over the next few weeks, those who are not regularly going to class could be facing some serious problems.
Students who have more than 10 unexcused absences in a year, could be ruled as truant.

Patricia Bryant, Raleigh County School’s Assistant Truancy Officer, says the school system is trying new ways to combat the growing problem.

“We’ve got the new Truancy Diversion Specialist and Judge John Hutchinson kicked this program off it’s all over the state, that they’re trying to go that route with circuit court,” Bryant said.

Under the new program offenders would have to face a circuit court judge, rather than a magistrate. The new law requires a truancy specialist in all 55 West Virginia counties. 

Students who have three or more missed absences are then visited by a truancy diversion specialist, to find ways to keep them in school.
If that doesn’t work, warrants and charges could be heading the parent’s way. 

“If it is a child in middle or high school, we file a juvenile petition and a warrant on the parent,” Bryant said. “And If it’s a child in elementary school, we file a warrant on just the parent.”

Bryant says her goal is not to take parents to jail, but to find a solution and help keep kids in the classroom.

“We talk with the parent and council the kids,” Bryant said. “Try to figure out what the problem is and try to solve it. So we don’t go to court. Our goal is not to take people to court. Our goal is to try to get people in school.”

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