Parents sentenced to jail for their children's truancy

Teens' chronic absence from school led officials to pursue prosecution

November 02, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

Three parents were ordered Thursday to serve time in the Harford County jail for failing to send their children to school.

District Judge Victor K. Butanis ordered Lori Rollins of Edgewood to serve five days in jail, and District Judge Mimi R. Cooper ordered Pamela White of North East and Lori Ayres of Edgewood to serve three days at the Harford County Detention Center.

The judges had imposed 10-day sentences on those three defendants. Rollins, White, Ayres and Donna Hood of Joppa were also put on probation, requiring them to end their children's truancy. A fifth defendant, Donna Elliot of Edgewood, was found not guilty.

During the 2002-2003 academic year, Rollins' 14-year-old missed 100 days of school, White's 14-year-old missed 69 days, Ayres' 15-year-old missed 71 1/2 days, and Hood's 14-year-old missed 101 days. There are 180 days in a school year.

"We can't have these kids behind in school because their parents aren't being parents, so we give them the option: Either the kids go to school, or you go to jail," said Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly.

Cassilly said he sent letters to all four homes asking parents to improve their children's attendance or face prosecution. Charges were filed when pupil personnel workers alerted Cassilly that the parents did not comply with his request.

These are not the first cases of truancy that have been brought into courtrooms in Harford County. Two parents were sent to jail in August for their children's poor attendance. At that time, Cassilly said that the Harford County public schools and state's attorney's office were trying to make parents take responsibility for their children's truancy.

"It is very important for the criminal prosecutor to be working closely with the schools on this problem," Cassilly said in August, "because once these children fall behind their peers, they drop out of school.

"Then they are more likely to engage in criminal behavior, get involved in drugs and alcohol, and have problems as adults."

This marks the fourth time this year that parents have been incarcerated for failing to send their children to school.

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