February 16, 2006
Lyn Guy, Ed. D.
Monroe County Schools
P.O. Box 330
Union, WV 24983
Dear Dr. Guy:
I am in receipt of your request for an opinion regarding truancy laws with respect to a student who fails to attend alternative school after being assigned there. Specifically, you explain:
During a recent multi-disciplinary team meeting involving the county court, the Department of Human Services, school officials, and attorneys, the question was raised as to whether a school system could consider a student truant if a) she was not attending the alternative school and b) the county had provided reimbursement for travel to the alternative school, which was held in the evening.
West Virginia Code ' 18-8-1 provides, in pertinent part:
(a) Compulsory school attendance shall begin with the school year in which the sixth birthday is reached prior to the first day of September or upon enrolling in a publicly supported kindergarten program and continue to the sixteenth birthday. Exemption from the foregoing requirements of compulsory public school attendance shall be made on behalf of any child for the causes or conditions set forth in this section. Each cause or condition set forth in this section shall be subject to confirmation by the attendance authority of the county.
It is clear that the Legislative intent is that all students between the ages of six and sixteen be enrolled in and attend the public schools of the state unless one of the conditions set forth later in the code section is met (e.g., the child is properly registered with the county as receiving home instruction, the child has graduated from a standard high school, the child attends a recognized private school, etc).
When a child is expelled from school for behavioral reasons, the child is not exempt from compulsory school attendance. Rather, the state is required to provide appropriate educational services even to those students who cannot be served in the regular school environment. In the case of Cathe A. v. Doddridge County Bd. of Educ., 200 W. Va. 521, 490 S.E.2d 340 (1997), the West Virginia Supreme Court held that:
"in all but the most extreme cases, the State will be able to provide reasonable state-funded educational opportunities and services to children who have been removed from the classroom by the provisions of the Safe Schools Act in a safe and reasonable fashion. Under such circumstances, providing educational opportunities and services to such children is constitutionally mandated."
The State is required to provide an alternate education to those students who have been expelled from the regular classroom setting. Likewise, the expelled student is required to attend the alternate educational program offered by his/her county. This is true whether the alternate program is a day program, an evening program, or consists of homebound or other similar services. If the student and his/her parents are not present for the educational program provided by the county, the student will be considered to be truant and the county will be obligated to pursue those remedies prescribed by West Virginia Code ' 18-8-2.
Hoping that I have been of service, I am
Steven L. Paine
State Superintendent of Schools