MADISON -- Boone Countys Twenty-fifth Judicial Circuit Judge William Thompson spent some of this week handling truancy cases. Several parents pleaded guilty to first offense violation of West Virginias school attendance law after prosecutors brought charges against parents whose children missed so many days of school that they broke the law. Parents pleading guilty on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, included Steven Cox of Nellis; April Bailey of Danville; Angela Bishop of Ashford; Jason Hager of Ottawa; Stephanie Chandler of Nellis; Edward Sansom of Madison; Stacey Warner of Seth; and Eric Hayes of Julian. A 22-year-old Clothier man was also arrested on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, for aiding or abetting violations of the compulsory attendance law after he hid a student in his home that was supposed to be in school. Jason Dylan Stephens allegedly concealed the student in his home and provided false information to probation officials and law enforcement officers, according to a criminal complaint file in Boone County Magistrate Court. This crackdown on truancy comes after Boone County Schools, the Administrative Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, and the Twenty-fifth Judicial Circuit signed a memorandum of understanding several months ago regarding the issue and the employment of a new school-based probation officer funded by the Boone County Board of Education. Education is the key to our future, said Judge Thompson. Early intervention is the key to reducing school drop-outs. Michael Lacy, Director of the Division of Probation Services for the West Virginia Supreme Court, says the program supports Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis, a Boone County native, initiative on reducing truancy rates and keeping kids in school. Boone is the fourth county in the state to have a school-based probation officer, he said. Logan, Wayne and Mercer counties have very successful results and we expect the same for Boone County. The officer has been focusing on attendance and behavioral issues with students. Being able to address this problem early helps to keep it out of the court system, said Chief Probation Officer Jerry Swanson. Judge Thompson says many of those on his criminal docket are high school dropouts. It is a problem that needs addressed and this is another positive way to help students and parents, Thompson said. Boone County Board of Education President Mark Sumpter said a child couldnt learn if they are not in school. When they miss a lot of school, they get behind, Sumpter said. Anything we can do to make sure they are attending school regularly and staying in school is good news for Boone County Schools, student, teachers, parents and the community. Boone County Schools Superintendent John Hudson says combating truancy is something all schools systems must address. Engaging students and families with a school-based juvenile probation officer should greatly assist with truancy and disciplinary issues, he said. Early intervention, along with promoting community involvement in dropout prevention, will be the key to combating Boone County truancy and dropout rates. Stacia Roberts is the new school-based truancy probation officer for Boone County. She spends 80 percent of her time inside schools in Boone County. I want to be in the schools, she said. Spending my time, hands-on, helping students having trouble with attendance. Roberts lives in Hewitt and is a 2006 graduate of Scott High School. She graduated college from West Virginia State University in 2010 with a degree in criminal justice. The resources are now all in place for children and parents with truancy issues, said Justin Marlowe, Boone County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Roberts works with school officials, teachers, students, parents and the courts in the new early intervention-based program. Boone County compulsory school attendance law states that any parent who allows their child to be absent without a legal excuse for five days in a school year is in violation of the states attendance law. Once a parent has been properly notified that their child has been absent without a legal excuse and continues to allow their child to be illegally absent from school, the attendance director shall sign a warrant before the magistrate, or judge. If the parent is found guilty of a first offense violation of the compulsory attendance law, the magistrate may: (1) fine the parent $50 to $100 dollars plus court cost; and/or (2) order the parent to attend school with the child for as long as they deem necessary; or, (3) may defer the sentence for sixty school days and if the child misses no unexcused days, the magistrate may not impose the penalty. If the parent is found guilty of a second and subsequent offense of the compulsory attendance law, the magistrate may: (1) fine the parent $50 to $100 dollars plus court cost; (2) order the parent to attend school with the child for as long as they deem necessary; or, (3) place the parent in jail for five to twenty days. Listed below are absences that the Boone County Board of Education recognizes as excused: (1) Doctors excuse; (2) Illness with a note from home (not to exceed 6 days a year); (3) Illness of a family member (doctors note required); (4) Calamity-fire, flood, etc.; (5) Death in the family (limit three days): (6) Legal obligation; (7) Failure of the bus to run; (8) Observance of religious holiday; and/or, (9) Extenuating circumstances approved by the school principal. Official said that all excuses require written verification. If no written excuse is received by the school, the absence will be considered unexcused, officials added. Eddie Weikle, Director of Attendance and Pupil Services for Boone County Schools, said the truancy initiative is working. We only have had one student expelled this year, he said. On Friday, April 12, 2013, Judge Thompson brought his court to Sherman High School in Seth to handle juvenile cases with some students at the school. Parents, students and the communities understand we are taking this issue very seriously, Weikle added. For a more detailed description of the Attendance Policy and the WV Compulsory School Attendance Law contact Weikle at 304-369-8252.