SC bill would raise high school dropout age

COLUMBIA, S.C (WSPA)-- Students who want to drop out of high school may be disappointed about a new bill at the Statehouse. It would increase the dropout age from 17 to 18 years old. 

Representative Wendell Gilliard from Charleston County is a member of the subcommittee that unanimously passed the bill onto its next phase. Gilliard says that extra year could make a difference.

"This measure will go far because you have a lot of students when you interact with them when they get to age 17 that's the law they're out. you see there's no hope. but you see you have that percentage of children that want to keep on keeping on," said Rep. Gilliard (D).

Right now the legal age to drop out of school is 17 years old. But dropout prevention specialists point out in order to decrease drop out rates, students have to be identified early. 

Dr. Sandy Addis, director of the National Dropout Prevention Center explained how dropping out is not a sudden decision.
Dr. Addis explained, "It's not an event. It's not that a kid says ok' I'm 16 i'm going to drop out because I can. Their level of engagement deteriorates over a period of time. They get frustrated they say well I can't make it I might as well drop out."

Lawmakers are looking at the bigger picture. Representative Gilliard said, "This guarantees us more citizens being productive not going to prison, going into the workforce, giving them hope. I think that's what we're going to get out of this."

As it stands now, if a student under 17 doesn't show up to school repeatedly, they may be sent to family court or even the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Parents of students under the age of 12 are held responsible if their child misses too many days. The worst case scenario for a student between 12 and 17 years old is spending 90 days behind bards at DJJ. 

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