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Policy strengthens student absence rules

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By Mackenzie Mays

A new state policy will give school districts more power to hold families accountable for student attendance.

The state Board of Education placed Policy 4110 on public comment on Thursday, which will allow school officials to cross county lines in order to pursue truancy charges. 

The policy breaks down barriers that may have allowed a student or guardian to avoid truancy charges if they live in a different county than where they attend school, and allows school officials more jurisdiction. 

If a student acquires five unexcused absences during the school year, that student’s parent or guardian can be arrested and taken to court. 

A school official will send a student who’s missed five days a written notice, and his or her guardian has 10 days to respond, according to the policy.

One in five students in West Virginia in 2011 had five or more unexcused absences, according to the state Department of Education. 

More than 29,000 students -- about 9 percent of the state’s total study body -- were truant more than 10 days.
Nationally, one in 10 students is chronically absent, according to the Department of Education. 

“Chronic absence is a leading, early warning indicator of academic trouble and later dropping out of school. The good news is that chronic absenteeism is a problem we can solve,” state school board President Gayle Manchin said in a statement Thursday. “Everyone can make a difference by helping students and families understand going to school every day and avoiding absences whenever possible is critical to achieving their hopes and dreams. Too often, we don’t realize how quickly absences add up. Missing two days a month can cause a child to fall behind.”
The Board of Education recently announced its a new attendance campaign as part of Attendance Awareness Month, which challenges local superintendents to make attendance a top priority starting in early grades.

The policy has been placed on public comment for 30 days here: http://wvde.state.wv.us. 

For more information, visit http://www.attendanceworks.org.