Local News

N.C. Considering Raising Age Of Mandatory School Attendance

Posted May 20, 2002 9:46 a.m. EDT

— The

General Assembly

may soon study whether to raise the age of mandatory school attendance to 18.

State law allows kids to leave school when they are 16. The Department of Public Instruction says if students do not grow up with the idea they can walk away from school at 16, they will try harder for that high school diploma. Some recent dropouts in Wake County claim that is not necessarily the case.

Mitchell Oakley goes to Wake Technical Community College every day to work on his General Educational Development Diploma. He dropped out of middle school.

"The teacher can't relate to you. The other kids can't relate to you, so it just adds two more negative things to something that is already horrible," Oakley said.

Jacob Wolfe, 16, only went to school 40 days last year.

"It doesn't matter what the age is, if a kid is saying he's not going to school, I don't think the age is going to change anything," Wolfe said.

Raising the legal age is a good idea to Ira Griffin, who dropped out early because he could.

"Would that turn their arm a little bit to stay in school, twist it a little bit to stay in school? On some kids, it might," he said.

Young people need a diploma for college or to get a job, but the state knows it will have to address dropout needs differently.

"When they feel they have a reasonable chance to be successful, more than just the lip service expressions of it, the youngsters will be more likely to put forth the effort necessary to be successful," said Dr. Henry Johnson, North Carolina director of curriculum and instruction.

Some Raleigh students do not want dropouts back in class unless schools can find a way to make them work.

"They would probably be class clowns and would be a distraction more than anything else, and the teachers would take more time trying to calm the class down and we wouldn't be learning anything then," student Larentia Butler said.

State school Superintendent Mike Ward plans to ask the General Assembly to study the issue. Assembly members would look at areas such as cost, the addition of more teachers and whether it is even a good time to change.

More than 20,000 North Carolina students dropped out of school last year.