Tuesday, February 28, 2006

To the Big House for Mother of Truants

The People's Republic of Montgomery County Maryland has take an unusual step in one fight against truancy. The mother of two middle school boys will spend a couple of nights in jail.
Shirley Heath Lumbao, 44, whose 13- and 15-year-old sons each missed more than 50 days of class during the 2004-05 school year, could face additional jail time if her sons' attendance doesn't improve.

"I took no pleasure in asking the judge to sentence this woman to jail," Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey Wennar said. "But I thought the message had to be sent to her and to her kids who were in the courtroom [during school hours] and the community that truancy will not be tolerated in Montgomery County."
I must admit to mixed feelings about this case. To be certain, the parents have a responsibility to ensure their children are attending school or getting some sort of schooling. But I am not sure of the efficacy of sending the mother to jail but not punishing the kids in this case.

If these children were younger, say in elementary school, the parents bear a little more responsibility. But these two boys are in middle school and need to be taught a lesson as well. Perhaps a couple of nights in jail for them will awaken them to the realities of their failures.

My favorite drive time radio show, the Grandy and Andy morning show on 630 WMAL took on this story as a topic this morning, with mixed reactions all around. I suppose I fall into that category as well.
Wennar said officials at Julius West Middle School bought the teenagers alarm clocks and offered them incentives, such as movie tickets, to improve their attendance.

He said Lumbao has two jobs and has said that she was unable to get the boys to go to school. Maryland, unlike other states, prosecutes parents, not children, for truancy.
I do think that a few more prosecutions like this one may spur a little more involvement by parents in the schooling of their kids. Fear of jail (and a conviction on your record) is often a great motivator.

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