One of the most critical needs facing public education reformers in West Virginia can be viewed not in classrooms but out on the streets, on couches in front of television sets and in scores of other places where children playing hooky hang out while they should be in school. Truancy, often excused or even enabled by parents, has become such a problem the state Supreme Court and many circuit judges and magistrates have become involved in trying to curb it.
Last week state legislators were told a critical need in preventing truancy is ensuring the state Department of Health and Human Resources has enough social workers to deal with it. Circuit Judge Alan Moats, of the Barbour-Taylor circuit, said more youth services and social workers are needed.
The DHHR serves a dual purpose in curbing truancy. It can provide help and counseling for families who aren't sending children to school. If that fails, it acts as part of the state's school attendance enforcement mechanism.
Social workers certainly have plenty on their plates already. But failure to graduate from high school sends young West Virginians on paths that lead them right back to the DHHR.
State officials should view the situation as a priority. If more social workers are needed - or, perhaps, some of those already on the job need to be earmarked for anti-truancy work, legislators should consider how they can make such changes happen.