PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A proposal in the state legislature could increase the Florida dropout age from 16 to 18. 

Currently, Bay District Schools has a dropout rate of around 3 percent, Jennifer Jennings, Bay District Schools Dropout Prevention Coordinator said. 

“We already intervene with our students so early on when we have kids start talking about dropping out,” Jennings said. “And I think it’s important to say when kids start saying the word dropout, we need to investigate what is going on.”

Since Hurricane Michael, students who have dropped out of high school before turning 18 have utilized tech centers like Haney Technical Center. However, if the legislation is implemented, those students would have to stay in high school, until they were able to drop out at 18. 

“Between Michael and COVID students are frustrated that are maybe in tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade, so they do see this as an option other than just leaving school altogether,” Angela Reese, Haney Assistant Director said.

If students try to drop out of high school before they turn 18, the new proposal would require schools to take the student to truancy court, if they were unable to persuade them to return to class, Jennings said. 

“If a student does decide that they do not want to pursue their high school diploma, they will have to be 18 years old,” Jennings said. “If they try to drop out prior to being 18 years old, then we will have to follow the truancy process as we have always done with students who are under the age of 16.”