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Driver's License Revocation: Students Are Said To Be 'Taking It Seriously'

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Education officials in West Virginia, which last fall became the first state in the nation to revoke the driver's licenses of dropouts, are finding that high-school attendance rates are rising, some dropouts are returning to school, and, in at least one school district, dropout rates have decreased dramatically.

Terri Wilson, acting director of education-support services for the state education agency, said high schools this year are reporting attendance rates of 95 percent to 98 percent, compared with 92 percent last year.

The department of motor vehicles has reported that about 100 of the 353 students who had their driver's licenses revoked in September for nonattendance have paid a $15 fee and returned to the classroom.

The education department plans to conduct a more detailed study of the law's effects later this year.

Other States Considering

Similar legislation, backed by teachers, lawmakers, and governors, is being pressed this year in Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

Last year, the governor of California vetoed a driver's license measure, and a half-dozen other states considered but rejected using the strategy in the fight against student dropouts and truancy. (See Education Week, Sept. 7, 1988.)

The West Virginia law provides that if a student misses 10 consecutive days or 15 days altogether during a semester, the state may revoke his license until age 18 unless he can prove an economic hardship. The license is restored if the student returns to school and pays a $15 fee.

In the Raleigh County School District, which enrolls 16,000 students, the dropout rate has decreased from an average 25 percent for the past three years to about 15 percent to 20 percent, said Sheila Lucento, guidance supervisor.

Ms. Lucento credited the new law with not only returning last year's dropouts to the classroom but also keeping students enrolled. She noted, however, that some dropouts who returned to school this year are now on the verge of leaving again.

"'We're just hoping the law will have some long-term effect," said Ms. Lucento. She believes it is working, she said, "because I am seeing a decrease in the number of students dropping out. I feel like anything that keeps kids in school is successful."

Although a few parents have grumbled about the law, its biggest critics are students themselves, who feel they are being unfairly singled out by the legislature.

"They are not very happy with the law," Ms. Lucento said. "However, they do seem to be taking it seriously."--nm

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