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WV school boss: I didn’t mean to downplay homeless students

August 16, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The head of West Virginia’s school system says he didn’t mean to downplay the seriousness of the rising number of homeless students in the state at an education board meeting earlier this week.

Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine issued a statement Friday saying he “in no way intended to convey that the data was not significant.”

The Charleston Gazette-Mail on Thursday reported Paine said it’s “not a significant increase” that the number of homeless students has risen 17% in the last two years to 10,522.

The newspaper first reported the figure last month after it wasn’t included in the state’s 2018 annual education report.

“My comments have been taken out of context and I apologize,” Paine said in the statement Friday.

Paine also called the number of homeless students “unacceptable” and pointed to problems such as poverty rates among students and the number of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Homeless students are classified as those who don’t have a regular and adequate nighttime residence. Students who stay with family or friends are counted as homeless and make up 87% of the total figure, according to the Gazette-Mail.

The paper reported that Paine attempted to might light of state’s definition of homelessness, telling board members that they “joke” that an education department staffer’s children are homeless because she lives with her parents.

“That was supposed to be humorous,” he said afterwards, according to the Gazette-Mail.

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