Texas teen jailed for skipping school

Texas teen jailed for skipping school

Credit: KHOU-TV/Houston

Texas teen jailed for skipping school

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by CYNTHIA WISE, Senior Assignments Editor, KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 4:16 PM

The story of a Texas teenager jailed for missing class has gone viral.

According to the story first reported by KING5's Houston affiliate, KHOU, 17-year old Diane Tran had to spend a night in jail recently for missing too much school.

According to the story, Tran was devastated by her parents' divorce and started working two jobs to help support a younger sibling who lives with relatives and an older brother who attends Texas A&M. She works two jobs and, when she is in school, reportedly gets straight As in honors and college prep courses.

One of her employers, Mary Elliott, told KING5 that Tran has been working for her since before her parents split up. Elliot says the girl's parents - Vietnamese immigrants - instilled the girl with a strong work- and study-ethic. Tran's mother moved to Georgia after the divorce. She says Tran and her younger sister both live with her father, except when he travels to Houston, about 50 miles away, to work.

Tran's attendance issues also began before her parents split up. Because she works two jobs she sometimes doesn't get enough sleep and is too tired to go to class. Because of privacy laws, the Willis Independent School District won't say how many days she's missed. Elliott says Tran has told her she's not sure how many she's missed but suggests she might miss as many as three days a month. Texas law says if a student has ten unexcused absences within a six month period they have to explain their absences to a judge.

Tran was first called to court last month. At that time the judge warned her not to miss any more school.

But she did and the judge ordered her back to court. This time though, he sentenced the girl - who is considered an adult in Texas - to spend a night in jail.

Because of privacy laws the district cannot confirm Tran's claims that she gets straight As, but a spokeswoman for Willis Schools says it is not uncommon for teachers to deduct points from a student's grade for missing class.

In Washington State, the Becca Law allows district to take parents to court if a student has seven or more unexcused absences in any given month or ten or more unexcused absences in any given school year. In Seattle, the number of student missing 10 or more days per year numbers into the thousands. In the current school year, 3,601 students have missed ten or more days. And, according to district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel, none of them have been jailed. She says the only time a child would be jailed for missing school is if they are arrested for another crime and a judge adds the truancy charge to the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a handbook for parents on Washington Truancy laws. You can access that by clicking here.

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