Helping youngest victims in West Virginia

Throughout West Virginia, including here in the Northern Panhandle, some teachers were seen Wednesday morning outside their schools, holding signs and demonstrating in favor of changes they hope the state Legislature will make.

They are absolutely right in pointing out one desperate need in our public schools: We are not doing enough for the most innocent, helpless victims of both the drug abuse epidemic and poverty.

Often, the two challenges go hand in hand. Some parents spend money on illicit drugs rather than their children.

Some West Virginians who take over raising their grandchildren struggle to make ends meet.

Teachers, school administrators and service personnel do all they can to help the youngest victims of drug abuse and poverty.

But because the scars created run deep, more help is needed.

One reason for the “walk-in” by educators, who cut short their demonstrations so they could get into schools and begin working with children, was to point out the need for more counselors, social workers and psychologists in our public schools.

It is real and, in many ways, unprecedented for several decades.

Public schools need literally hundreds more personnel with the expertise and time to help children affected by drug abuse and poverty, many teachers contend. One number we have heard is 700.

With many other priorities on their minds — and limited money to address them — many legislators may wonder whether the state can afford to hire that many new school employees.

Perhaps not.

But lawmakers and Gov. Jim Justice should consider the enduring harm that will result if more is not done. The question they should be asking is whether West Virginia can afford not to do more for children who, clearly, are suffering.

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