TRUANCY: IS IT A PARENTAL CRIME?
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Should a parent be held responsible and punished by the justice system if a child is not
attending school, even if they are unaware of their child’s wareabouts? Is jail time or a
stiff monetary fine the appropriate penalty? Today, we will interview parents who were,
or currently are, being held responsible for their child’s truancy. We will discuss the
various scenarios these parents are dealing with, whether or not parental punishments,
including tines or jail time, are an appropriate punishment. Our guests are people
whose lives were affected by the severe measures various judges have imposed on them.
Among the cases that attorney offices have taken to prevent truancy include Michelle,
who spent 3 days in jail last year for her children’s truancy. She claims her kids – Kayla
and Harry, 12 – were either skipping school without her knowledge or home sick.
However, since the new school year began, her kids have been absent a total of 37 days,
and Michelle now faces new charges and possible jail time. Abby was put on probation
because her 10-year-old son, Devin, had missed too many days of school. When she
violated her probation by not taking her required parenting classes, she was thrown in
jail for 17 days. When Ronnie & Paula, were unaware that their daughter, Heaven,
was out of school regularly until the court notified them. They were threatened with
imprisonment and fines if they didn’t make sure their daughter attended class. Then,
after a corporal punishment suggestion from the judge, Ronnie arrested for shackling
his daughter to her bed to ensure that she attended school. Sandra pulled her 14-year-
old daughter, Joanne, out of school because she feared for her daughter’s life, and as a
result now may face criminal charges. We will debate the issue of whether or not
truancy is a parent’s responsibility. We will be joined by Criminal Defense Attorney
Jayne Weintraub, who says putting parents on the line for their child’s truancy is
ludicrous, and Florida State Attorney Harry Shorstein, who strongly supports
prosecuting the parents of habitual children. Plus, John honors 17-year-old Melissa
Alexander from Germantown, OH as this week’s Hometown Hero for courageously
tackling a would-be attacker in the front yard of her family’s home.
Last year Michelle served 3 days in jail for her children’s combined 68 days of truancy.
She stated that her kids were either skipping school without her knowledge or they were
sick at home. Michelle is facing more jail time for her children’s 37 days of truancy
during the current school year. She says that she did everything she could to get them to
go to school, and she shouldn’t be held responsible if they don’t stay there.
Kayla & Harry
Kayla, 9, and Harry, 12, are Michelle’s children. They tell John why they skipped so
many days of school and why they think their mom shouldn’t be punished for their
Abby was put on probation because her son, Devin, had missed an unacceptable number
of class days. When she violated her probation by not taking all of her required
parenting classes, she was thrown in jail for 17 days. She claims her son’s school never
informed her he was absent
Devin is Abby’s 10-year-old son. He says his mom is partly to blame for his truancy
because sometimes she wouldn’t wake him for school, but says most of his absences
were due to illness. He believes his mom shouldn’t have received jail time.
Ronnie & Paula
Ronnie and Paula were unaware that their 12-year-old daughter, Heaven, was
skipping school regularly until the court notified them; they were shocked to find out
she missed 20 days of school. As a result, the judge threatened to imprison them both
or fine them if they didn’t make sure Heaven regularly attended school. After a
corporal punishment suggestion from the judge, Ronnie was arrested for shackling his
daughter to ensure that she attended school. Paula says her family’s life has been
destroyed as a result of her daughter’s truancy.
Heaven is the 12-year-old daughter of Ronnie & Paula. She admits to skipping school
at east once a week and says she feels bad that her parents are suffering because of her
Tad Nelson, Esquire
Tad is Ronnie’s defense attorney. He reveals more details about the charges against
his where the case stands now.
On October 21, 2002, Sandra took her 14-year-old daughter, Joanne, out of school
because she feared for her daughter’s life; Joanne hasn’t been to school since. Sandra
says the Bureau of Welfare has threatened her by saying that unless she puts Joanne
back in school, she may face criminal charges. Sandra says she refuses to send Joanne
to school until she’s transferred to a safer one.
Joanne is Sandra’s 14-year-old daughter. She says she is terrified to return to school
after being the victim of a bias attack and says she doesn’t want to go to a school where
she doesn’t feel safe.
Harry Shorstein, Esquire
Harry is a Florida State Attorney. He supports holding parents responsible for their
child’s absences from school, and his office has made a number of parental arrests in an
effort of reduce truancy.
Jayne C. Weintraub, Esquire
Jayne is a Criminal Defense Attorney. She says she believes it is ridiculous for parents
to be held responsible and given jail time or fines for their child’s truancy. She tells
John why she feels this way and how she discusses alternatives to these punishments.
Melissa & Vickey
17-year-old Melissa, from Germantown, OH, came to the rescue of her family by single-
handedly tackling, tying up, and sitting on a would-be thief who threatened the family’s
home. Melissa’s mother, Vickey, says her teen daughter was fearless when protecting
their family, and John honors Melissa as this week’s Hometown Hero for her fierce