Montgomery County school officials had been attempting to correct a 15-year-old student's truancy problem for more than a year when the youth was fatally injured in an Oct. 27 construction accident, a school system investigation of the case found.
School officials said yesterday that guidance counselors and other special personnel did everything they could short of seeking court action to keep James Ricketts in school, but Ricketts frequently missed class last year and never returned in September.
Ricketts, who was enrolled in the Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School last year, died after falling from the roof of a pool enclosure that he was helping build at a home in Clifton.
School officials launched the inquiry to find out why Ricketts was working full time instead of attending school. They said in their report that school personnel had met their obligations to help the Germantown youth.
"All of the available resources of the school system were brought to bear to assist this student in keeping with our educational responsibilities," Deputy Superintendent of Schools Paul Vance said in a statement issued through a spokesman. "The Montgomery County public schools acted in an appropriate and responsible fashion."
Maryland law requires parents to ensure that their children ages 6 to 16 attend school and it requires school officials to act on unlawful absences.
The school system does not plan to seek legal action against Ricketts' parents, spokesman Bill Henry said. Although other counties have used the law's criminal penalties as a last resort with parents of habitual truants, the Montgomery County school system generally deals with such problems outside the courts, Henry said.
"There comes a point where, no matter what you do, it isn't going to work 100 percent of the time," he added.
School personnel said confidentiality laws prohibit them from discussing the Ricketts case in detail.
In a series of telephone calls and letters, the last of which was dated Oct. 14, school officials encouraged Ricketts' parents to send him to a special program. However, Laura and Robert Ricketts favored a different placement, a school official said.
The accident that claimed the youth's life remains under review by Virginia state authorities who are investigating possible violations of child labor laws and safety codes, state officials said.