CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Initial efforts with in-school juvenile probation officers in seven counties have proven effective at reducing truancy, members of a legislative interim committee learned Monday.
One reason, said Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant, is that the in-school officers can intervene quickly when a student reaches five unexcused absences -- unlike the minimum four to six weeks needed to go through the traditional process of obtaining a juvenile petition in court.
"In the life of a teenager, six weeks can very quickly turn from truancy to a disaster," Lacy told an interim committee on education.
O'Briant oversees Logan County, the first county in West Virginia to have an in-school probation officer.
For the past school year, the officer received 1,972 referrals for absences from the county's six junior high and high schools, and resolved all but 51 without going to court.
"We were able to resolve well over 85 to 90 percent of the issues within the schools," he said.
Mike Lacy, director of probation services for the West Virginia Supreme Court, said seven county school boards have in-school juvenile probation officers, including Boone, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monongalia, Putnam and Wayne counties.