CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On July 22, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the launch of the Truancy Diversion Initiative, part of the governor’s comprehensive juvenile justice reform in West Virginia. The governor introduced the proposal as part of his 2015 State of the State address in January and signed Senate Bill 393 into law April 2, 2015.
“Since becoming governor, I have worked hard to ensure our students have access to a world-class education and the increased opportunities that are critical for long-term success,” Gov. Tomblin said. “This new initiative will help provide early intervention services to those children who need them most, keeping them in school and providing them with the individualized attention they need to get back on track and get the education they need to take advantage of the growing opportunities we are creating in the Mountain State.”
Through a partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education, applications are now available for county boards of education to apply for funding for a truancy diversion specialist to serve local students. As outlined in Senate Bill 393, truancy diversion specialists will serve all 55 counties to work cooperatively with school teachers and staff, the Circuit Court, school districts, and law enforcement officials to redirect at-risk youth toward positive school attendance and engagement.
“Several years ago, the Court began to contract with individual county boards of education to provide school-based probation officers to put a dent in the truancy rate,” West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman said. “This strategy has been dramatically effective in a number of counties. So we’re very pleased that the Governor and the Legislature worked together to expand this practice into all of the counties, and we at the Court are eager to continue to do our part to keep kids in school.”
As part of the initiative, diversion specialists will also work with community-based youth reporting centers to help ensure a smooth transition for students between school and the youth reporting center and work to ensure positive relationships between parents, students, teachers and staff.
“Regular student attendance is critical to success in the classroom and improving the graduation rate,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano said. “I commend Governor Tomblin’s leadership on Senate Bill 393, which will help to reduce truancy in our schools and reduce suspension and juvenile incarceration rates, ultimately ensuring a world-class education for all students.”