Raleigh County judge takes new approach to tackling truancy - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Raleigh County judge takes new approach to tackling truancy

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) It's an all too common problem -- students who skip school and parents who claim they are powerless to stop it. Since West Virginia's truancy courts were established six years ago, judges have sentenced the students' parents to pay fines, serve jail time, and even go to school themselves.

And so far, the strategy is working, but only for kids at the elementary and middle school level. According to Raleigh County Judge John Hutchison, the high school drop out rate has fallen considerably, but the truancy rate in secondary schools statewide remains stagnant.

"We still have problems with a number of parents who can't get their kids to school or they're not asking for help if their kids are creating a problem." 

Instead of locking those parents up or sending them to school with their children, where he said they are sometimes a disruption, Judge Hutchison is going to start sentencing some repeat offenders to community service. 

"We're going to say because you're causing the system to expend resources, we're going to make you give back. Hopefully, they'll understand if it's costing me time by doing community service, maybe I can avoid that by getting my kids to school." 

The goal, he adds, is to encourage parents to prepare their kids for a world where a high school degree is becoming increasingly necessary while saving taxpayers in the process. 

"Blue collar workers are the greatest people in the world. They support everything that goes on above that level of work. But the sad part is to be a blue collar worker you have to have a little bit more in terms of skill and education. 

Presently, the first offense for parents charged with truancy is court costs and possibly having to attend school. Judge Hutchison said he plans to use Day Report and more community service sentences with parents who are repeat offenders. 

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