W.Va. Must Draw Up School 'Grievance' Plan

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Charleston, WVa--The West Virginia Board of Education has agreed to draw up a grievance policy for parents, students, and lay citizens who believe their county boards of education are not complying with statewide education standards.

The board's action came in response to an order by Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur M. Recht, who told the board to add such a policy to its $1-billion master plan to improve West Virginia schools.

Formulation of the plan was ordered by the Judge last May after he ruled that the state's existing method of financing public schools was unconstitutional.

West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Roy Truby said a committee composed of parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and county school-board members will be appointed to create the policy.

Mr. Truby said the policy would establish a strict hierarchy for the complaints, beginning at local schools and culminating with a ruling by the state superintendent of schools.

Grievance-Policy Committee

Members of the state board said they wanted the policy to emphasize ways to resolve problems at the county level before moving them on to the state level. Mr. Truby has not yet appointed the members of the grievance-policy committee and no initial meeting date has been set for it.

Once the policy is drawn up, moreover, it is unclear when it would go into effect. State education officials say it may take 15 to 20 years before the standards in its master plan are implemented in county school systems.

In his final order this month, Judge Recht accepted most of the state's master plan but criticized the state board for failing to provide a remedy for citizens who feel local school officials are ignoring their responsibilities.

"A grievance procedure to redress the failure to provide elements of a high-quality system of education must be provided to include a proper and timely opportunity for a citizen to be heard before an impartial official," Judge Recht said.

The state board was criticized last December for its failure to include a grievance policy in its master plan. The 95-member advisory committee that drafted the plan had recommended a policy but its suggestions were left out in the state board's final version.

Mr. Truby had sought to assure critics that the board intended to create a grievance policy at a later date. The absence of such a policy, among other issues, fueled a court challenge by Linda Martin, an advisory-committee member, who charged that the board's plan was contrary to the interests of most students.

The West Virginia Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether it will permit Ms. Martin to intervene in the case and lodge her appeal.

Vol. 02, Issue 27

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