Cabell County Has School-Based Probation Officer to Tackle Truancy

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- During the 2013-2014 school year, Cabell County Schools has a new tool to help combat truancy -- an in school probation officer.

Nikita Jackson hits the road in the early morning hours to talk to school personnel about the latest list of students who exceeded five unexcused absences.

"I probably have 50 right now at Huntington Middle," Jackson said. "Our goal is to try to keep kids out of court and getting them to go to school so they don't miss out on their education.

Jackson concedes that sometimes court is a last-resort option. One month into the school year, truancy cases are now appearing on the docket every Monday and Wednesday.

"We're working hard to get to these kids a whole lot earlier," Cabell County Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson said. "When I get the parents in court, I tell them the first offense is a non-jailable offense, and I go ahead and fine them but I tell them the second is a jailable offense."

Two weeks in the new school year, letters went out to parents whose children had five or more unexcused absences last year.
The number was staggering.

"Our phone was ringing off the hook," Sherri Woods said. "I would say it was at least close to between 45 hundred and five thousand."

Jackson is hoping the numbers by the end of the year speak for themselves.

"We just want parents and their children to understand why it's so important to be in school," she said.

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