Student drivers face stricter attendance & grade rules
Teens in search of that glimmering prize of a driver's license will need to pay close attention to new eligibility rules that are coming up the pike at the state's Department of Education.
As of September 15, all West Virginia schools will tighten their grip on the Driver's Eligibility Certificate that students need to get a license from the DMV.
Specifically, high schoolers will have to show up more to class and pass more of their courses to qualify for the Eligibility Certificate. The certificate has been required for young drivers for some time, but this year, state legislators spelled out how exactly they can get it. Or lose it.
Under the new law, students must pass five courses each year and have fewer than 15 unexcused absences in order to get or keep a driver's license.
Three of the five courses must be from core subjects like English, math or science. Courses from summer school don't count toward that academic requirement.
If a high school student racks up more than the allowable absences, they will lose their driver's eligibility. In order to get a license back or earn an eligibility certificate, the student will have to avoid all unexcused absences for the following semester.
Any days spent suspended from school count against the attendance tally if suspension is a result of assault, possessing a deadly weapon, sale of a narcotic, committing a felony or possessing a controlled substance.
For students who fail too many classes, the consequence is even tougher. They will have to wait until the end of the academic year to ask for their license back.
According to Morgan County Schools' Attendance Director, Linda McGraw, that could mean a student with poor performance in the spring would have to wait until the end of the next school year to become eligible for a driver's license again.
McGraw said students wanting a license – particularly ninth and 10th graders — should pay close attention to the rules so they aren't caught in a bind when it comes time to get licensed.
When you start back to school this year, you need to try hard to pass those classes. If you run into trouble, you need to seek help early, said McGraw.
You've got too much at risk here, she said.
Last year, McGraw notified the DMV that 34 local students had fallen short of their eligibility requirements.
Local teens who withdraw from school without completing their graduation requirements must still meet the eligibility requirements in order to keep a driver's license.
That means those who drop out of school have to enroll in a class to seek their GED, or pass the GED test to keep driving. The rules apply until the age of 18.
McGraw hopes that parents will help keep student attendance in line with both school and driver's license requirements. When a student accumulates 10 unexcused absences, McGraw notifies parents and asks for an immediate meeting about the absences.
Sometimes parents can clarify which absences were legitimate, or address any chronic problems that might affect student attendance and learning.
Last year, McGraw sent out 157 letters to parents of Berkeley Springs High School students who had missed significant school. Most letters got a response, but some didn't. McGraw urged parents not to ignore those kinds of notices.
If it gets to 15 unexcused absences, we have to report it to law enforcement, she said.
Ultimately, school officials want all students – those of driving age and those much younger – to come to school every day and learn.
Attendance impacts grades. Students who are there will do better than students who are absent, said McGraw.