Risky Task

Risky Task

Clearly, improving public schools in West Virginia will be a difficult, time-consuming and possibly politically risky task. Despite talk of “omnibus” education bills in the Legislature this year, the job defies a one-shot answer.

Good for state Board of Education members for making a notable improvement this week.

One concern about schools is disciplining unruly, disruptive and occasionally violent students. Believe it or not, state policy for some time actively discouraged local school officials from doing that.

State school board Policy 4373, dealing with discipline, formerly penalized county school districts on the state’s accountability system if they handed out too many out-of-school suspensions for students.

Supporters of that approach — and there are many, not just here but also in other states — are critical of suspending students because, they argue, that deprives the troublemakers of the opportunity to learn.

But what some do learn, and we defy any working teacher or principal to dispute this, is that sometimes, they can get away with misbehavior.

State board members seem to agree. This week, they approved a change in Policy 4373. It gives school officials more latitude in sending students home, without risking black marks in the education accountability system.

It almost always is better to deal with troublemakers in school, of course. The educators we know understand that and go out of their way to work with troubled students inside school.

But in some situations, both to get a source of trouble out of school and to send him or her a message, suspension is the appropriate choice.

State board members, then, have taken a meaningful step toward improving public schools in West Virginia.