Future of many high school dropouts is jail, experts believe

Local - 2/26/2014 5:00 PM

Judge Paul M. Blake, Jr. is has seen it one too many times.

"I can look at them and say, 'You're going to come in here wearing orange if you don't take these steps to help yourself,'" Blake said. "It's like talking to a brick wall."

Officials believe young students refusing to learn will find themselves in trouble as adults.

"You have to have an education," Blake told WOAY. "You have to have some training. Without that, you won't get hired anywhere. You're going to be living on the public dole the rest of your life."

Therapist Hamlet Smith talked about the benefits of education.

"I think the discipline of getting up every morning or the discipline of going to school -- valuing that -- learning to interact in a social context -- I think all of those things are pretty valuable for children to learn," he said.

About 75 percent of all prison inmates are high school dropouts, and more than 80 percent of prison inmates are illiterate. 

"We know there's a cost to society when we're not able to be that successful in life, so we want to back up as good stewards of preparing these students for the future, we want to make sure that they develop not only the skills and knowledge they have as students, but their work habits as well," Fayette County Schools Superintendent Keith Butcher told WOAY.

Despite the dropouts, those working with the courts said some students are seeing the light.  

"Sometimes it seems a little harsh when we have to file the complaints or take it to court, but in many cases, once the parent goes to court one time or has to pay a fine on the first offense, that child usually starts coming to school a little more regularly," Fayette County attendance director Judy Lively said.

But it takes work by the parents and the students.

"It's not successful if you can't find some way to motivate that child to want to go to school, and motivate the parents to help that child go to school," Blake said. "It would not be successful."

Truancy petitions in Raleigh County are relatively new and therefore experimental.

"At the moment one cannot say we are saving money by this program in terms of court time and manpower," Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller said. "In the long run that's the goal. We just don't know yet."


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