Parents Cited for Childrens’ School Truancy

Parents of Ohio County students are being held accountable for not sending their children to school.

Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Joshua Norman said he is seeing an average of two compulsory school attendance cases each week in Magistrate Court, with three scheduled Tuesday.

In one case, an agreement between Norman and Ohio County Schools Truancy Director Jeff Laird resulted in the offending individual being given an improvement period until the end of the school year.

Laird said state laws mandate students not miss more than five days per school year.

“Once it goes beyond that, the issue is addressed on the school level with an administrator talking with parents,” he said. “It ends up in court if the problem continues.”

He said typically, attendance problems increase as the school year progresses.

Norman said parents with multiple children can face different charges for each child.

“Fact patterns must be the same for each individual child,” he said.

Laird said cases are handled on a discretionary basis with each family.

“These absences can be caused by a variety social issues and circumstances in the home,” he said.

Norman said many compulsory school attendance cases are dismissed after the parent and child complete a 60-day improvement period with no absences.

If the pattern resumes, more stringent penalties can be imposed.

West Virginia law states that conviction of a first offense can result in a $50-$100 fine, or the parent can be ordered to accompany the child to school and remain there through the school day for as many days as the magistrate deems appropriate. The magistrate may delay the sentence for 60 days provided the child does not miss school during that period.

For second offenses, the law calls for a $50-$100 fine, plus the cost of prosecution and the parent may be required to accompany the child to school for as many days as are ordered, or jailed for five-to-20 days. The law also states every day a child is absent constitutes a separate offense.

In addition to parents being punished, students can be cited into court as juvenile offenders.

Laird said many cases involve single parents, but in two parent homes, the parent deemed to be the primary care giver is the one cited into court.