In a recent meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education, approval was given for a compulsory attendance policy requiring students to be age 18 before dropping out of high school. This policy will take effect in the 2014-2015 school year.
The Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 97, which raises the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18 in its 2013 regular session. Adoption of this policy is voluntary until 55 percent (96) of districts adopt the policy. Once 55 percent of districts have adopted the policy, the statute mandates that the remaining districts must adopt and implement within four years.
“I’m all for raising the minimum dropout age, but I think people need to be realistic,” said board chairman Joe Meadors. “This is going to bring some problems to the school. When you have kids that don’t want to be in school, and the only reason they are there is because they haven’t reached the legal age to drop out, then that brings a whole different set of issues to the school setting.”
Meadors said he feels students, “who are only at school because they have to be will disturb the learning environment for numerous other kids who do want to be there.”
“It all sounds good in the world. You talk about, oh yeah, they do need to be in school, but people need to understand we may have to attack this a little differently than we think going in,” said Meadors.
Superintendent C.D. Morton said “for high school teachers it’s a “very very frustrating experience to have kids in your room that don’t want to be there.”
“But, we have a challenge to help them and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Morton. “Nothing is going to change our goal and our mission whether they are 18 or 80. We’re going to try and do what we can to help them.”
Meadors said he just wished state leaders would say, “listen this is something, as a society, we think is good, but we also know there is going to be some issues with this. We may have to provide other alternative learning experiences for these kids.”
Morton added this policy has already been adopted in most Kentucky school districts.
“It’s in place and in practice for the most part at this point, I think,” said Morton. “It will become law for every school district in 2017-2018. We’re just going to adopt this early.”
In other board action:
*Approved an amendment to the 2013-2014 calendar noting the last day of school will be May 30 for students and May 31 for teachers. Graduation will be held at 1:30 p.m. on May 31;
*Approved the 2014-2015 school calendar stating school will begin for teachers on Aug. 4 and students will attend their first day on Aug. 6.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-909-4147 or on Twitter @Nola_hde