Parents convicted for child's truancy

November 15, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Ellicott City parents were ordered to undergo counseling and complete probation after being convicted of failing to send their 13-year-old daughter to school for 63 days during the last school year.

Daniel and Catherine Fischer, of the 10100 block of Frederick Road, were each given a suspended prison term of 10 days in jail after a trial Friday in Howard District Court.

"This certainly is not a pleasant task," Judge Louis Becker said during the sentencing. "Nevertheless, as Harry Truman once said, the buck stops here, and this is where it is going to stop in this case."

Before issuing the sentence, Judge Becker met privately with the Fischers' daughter, Bernadette, and gave the family a tour of the District Court's holding cells for prisoners.

Mr. Fischer, a 50-year-old postal worker, accepted the judge's sentence, saying he hopes it will help get his daughter back to school.

"All I can say is I hope this works," he said as his 52-year-old wife stood beside him. "If I had to be found guilty to make her go back, maybe this will be the spark that does it."

The Fischers were convicted under a state law that requires parents to send children, between the ages of 5 and 16, to school.

"If we can't make it the responsibility of parents, then we're raising our hands and leaving it up to the state," Assistant State's Attorney Daniel Vaccaro said. "The best place for that control begins in the home."

The Fischers were charged after their daughter missed 63 days of school between Sept. 16, 1991, and April 29, according to court records.

The girl, an eighth-grader at Burleigh Manor Middle School, has missed 26 days and two half-days out of 50 school days this year, said William Kempf, a pupil personnel worker for the county Board of Education.

The Fischers testified that they repeatedly tried to get their daughter to go to school, even pulling her out of bed, but she refused to attend classes.

The girl has undergone psychiatric treatment at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Health System in Baltimore, but was released when the family's insurance coverage ended, according to testimony.

School officials have visited the Fischers' home, where they were told the girl was not feeling well, Mr. Kempf said. The Fischers were unable to provide notes from doctors regarding any illnesses.

The school board rarely files criminal complaints against parents for failing to send children to school, preferring to work out problems within the system, Mr. Kempf said.

"We have nothing left after this [court]," he said. "This is sort of the last resort."

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