West Virginia Judiciary

Judicial Projects

Truancy

Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis is leading an unprecedented new effort to coordinate judicial truancy programs in West Virginia. In the fall of 2011, Justice Davis appeared at fourteen regional meetings of school superintendents and principals to discuss ways the court system can work with educators, the Department of Health and Human Resources, and other community officials to keep children in school. She also signed an order in Princeton acknowledging the Mercer County School Board's decision to pay for a probation officer to work on truancy cases in the Ninth Judicial Circuit.

Watch a video of the presentation in Parkersburg, WV, shot by the State Department of Education.

"The truancy habit can lead students to drop out of school before graduation. That is usually the beginning of a lifetime of trouble that can include unemployment, drug dependency, crime, and incarceration," Justice Davis says. "Our state jails and prisons are overflowing. We can't afford to wait another minute to address this problem, or to allow another young life to be wasted."

Justice Davis has been appointed by the Supreme Court to coordinate the efforts of circuit judges who work with schools to reduce truancy rates. The Court hopes a Justice's leadership will encourage more judges and schools to work together.

Justice Davis was accompanied to the regional meetings by Judge Alan Moats of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit (Barbour and Taylor Counties), who has established a successful anti-truancy program in his circuit. Judge Moats spoke at each meeting and described his program, an example of one that works.

Several other circuit judges in West Virginia also already have initiated truancy programs. They include Twenty-Eighth Judicial Circuit (Nicholas County) Judge Gary Johnson, who has worked with the Nicholas County Board of Education on a new procedure for handling truancy cases in the court system. Before, cases went first to a magistrate. Judge Johnson now handles them directly in circuit court. In Logan and Wayne Counties, Circuit Judges Eric O'Briant and James Young have assigned probation officers to deal solely with truancy. In Fayette County, Judge John Hatcher has been working on truancy cases with Judy Lively at the Fayette County Board of Education. In Putnam County, Judge Phillip Stowers set up a truancy program two years ago that is based in magistrate court, where he works closely with magistrate Linda Hunt, a former school counselor. In the last school year, Putnam County truancy complaints were about half what they had been in previous years.

2012 West Virginia Circuit Judges Truancy Survey Report
Truancy Presentation
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Unexcused Absences for the 2009-2010 School Year