HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Nineteen Cabell County students face juvenile petitions after they either skipped school the day after a truancy hearing or failed to attend the hearing itself.
Cabell County Assistant Prosecutor Peggy Brown said misdemeanor truancy charges also have been filed against the students' parents or guardians.
The 19 juveniles were among 50 Huntington High School students who have been habitually absent and were ordered to appear Monday before a circuit judge and a family court judge. The purpose of the hearing was to reiterate the importance of getting an education. The students' 2011-12 absences ranged from eight to 94 days missed, with an average of 37.
The Herald-Dispatch reports 14 students attended the truancy hearing, then failed to attend class the next day. Five others skipped the truancy hearing.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed,'' Brown said. "I think it's indicative. For whatever reason, they felt compelled to show up on Monday, but didn't take what the judge said seriously.''
Brown said each of the students and parents will be summoned to court. Convictions could lead to fines or placement of students in a state home.
"We don't want to punish people,'' Brown said. "We want people to go to school. But if children are not in school, and they should be, we're going to do what we can to assure that they get an education.''
Experts say truancy often leads teens to drop out in middle or high school and puts them at risk for drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and delinquency.
Last year, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis and Barbour County Circuit Judge Alan Moats conducted a statewide tour to discuss truancy. They held more than a dozen regional meetings to help counties develop their own strategies to fight it.
Moats estimates 80 percent of children who drop out will eventually end up behind bars.