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Truancy Laws Unfairly Attack Poor Children and Parents
The New Republic

More than 1,600 parents—most of them mothers—have been jailed in Berks County since 2000 for failure to pay truancy fines. In Pennsylvania, truancy is defined as more than three days of unexcused absence from school. After that, kids and parents can be referred to court and fined $300 per additional unexcused absence, in addition to court costs. Because her sons were enrolled in different schools under different jurisdictions, two judges heard a total of 55 truancy charges against DiNino. The first, Wally Scott, cleared her after learning of her indigent financial situation. “We sat and talked for a long time in my office and I could see that she couldn’t pay the fines, that she tried to make her sons go to school but there is only so much a parent can do,” Scott said. The second judge, Dean R. Patton, ordered DiNino to document her inability to pay the truancy fees. When she failed to bring the paperwork to court, Patton sent her to jail. He later told The Associated Press that DiNino “cared about her kids, but her kids ruled the roost.”]