Educators are caught in something of a no-win situation regarding out-of-control students. If troublemakers are allowed to remain in class, they disrupt the learning process for everyone. But if they are kicked out of school, even temporarily, their schools show lower attendance rates.
State Department of Education officials have proposed a new policy making it more difficult to suspend West Virginia public school students. The idea is to keep them in class. The state Board of Education is to vote on the plan early next year.
Some educators, including members of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, worry the policy, if implemented, will tie school officials' hands in dealing with disruptive students. They are right to be worried about that. Many teachers admit the most difficult part of their jobs is dealing with unruly children. That takes time away from other youngsters, many of whom need more individualized attention.
State officials clearly are concerned about school attendance numbers and federal funding linked to them.
But there is more to it, as we and others, including state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis, have pointed out. The high court has launched a new campaign to combat truancy, and for good reason. Young people who fail to graduate from high school are much more likely to become criminals than those who get their diplomas. The state department's new policy seems intended to avoid kicking students out of schools, then having them never return.
As the proposal notes, it is possible to remove disruptive students from regular classes while keeping them in school through "alternative" classrooms and/or at-home tutoring.
But that costs money and, again, diverts resources from well-behaved students.
Clearly, the proposal needs more study - and input from professional educators. In the end, the state Board of Education should not tie schools' hands in dealing with troublemakers.