Board riled by truant pupils

October 09, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Students skipping school frequently are thumbing their noses at the system because they know the state does not have any place to put them, a Jefferson County official told state representatives Wednesday night.

Judges can send the parents of truants to jail for the children skipping classes, but the judges do not have places to send the juveniles who are status offenders, said Joe Walter, attendance director for Jefferson County Schools.

Walter said the word on the street is that nothing is happening to status offenders because the state does not have the facilities for dealing with them. Even the threat of locking up their parents does not deter some of the juvenile offenders, he said.


"There's a few juveniles out there who relish the idea of putting their parents in jail," Walter said.

Jefferson County school officials met Wednesday night with local legislators to describe problems facing the county school system and possible solutions needed at the state level.

School board President Peter Dougherty said that according to the current state requirement to maintain a student-teacher ratio of 24-to-1, if two students join a class later in the school year, then another teacher has to be hired and 10 students moved to the new class.

He suggested there should be some flexibility, such as hiring a teaching aide to assist.

But Tom Lange, liaison with the West Virginia Education Association, said one of the problems with that idea is that the teaching aide frequently ends up serving as office help instead of being in a classroom where needed.

Lange said the officials should be talking about lowering the student-teacher ratio by committing more resources to education rather than talking about letting the ratio rise.

Dougherty said the state also needs to change the testing system for maintenance workers and bus mechanics.

Currently, the applicants for jobs need to pass only a written test, not actually prove they have skills at making repairs.

"I could pass the mechanic's test. Believe me, you would not want me working on a school bus," Dougherty said.

Dougherty also said the state should change the requirement that a school nurse must have a dual certification for teaching. The nurses help dispense medication to students who need them. They currently do not teach classes.

When nurses have to leave to take classes for teaching recertification, a secretary is left to dispense medication, said school board member Doris Cline.

State Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said it sounds like someone had a good idea at the state to require certification, but hadn't thought out the long-term results of the requirement.

"The key is they're not instructing students," said State Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson.

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