Parents in this US state face potential imprisonment over their child's school absence
A case currently under review by the Missouri Supreme Court highlights the perplexing issue faced by parents in the state. In Missouri, parents may face imprisonment if their children fail to attend school consistently. However, a court filing argues that the term "regularly" remains undefined, leaving both parents and officials uncertain about its exact interpretation.
According to WSJ report, Missouri parents can be imprisoned if their kids do not attend school regularly. The matter had been taken up before the Missouri Supreme Court when two parents, Caitlyn Williams and Tamarae LaRue, decide to sue the state over its compulsory school attendance law, which says that parents can face jail time if their children fail to regularly attend school.
Caitlyn Williams was sentenced to seven days in jail after her six-year-old daughter missed 16 days of school during the 2021-2022 school year, while Tamarae LaRue was sentenced to 15 days in jail, later changed to two years of probation, after her six-year-old son missed 13 days of school.
The mothers cited ear infection, bad cough and a doctor's appointment as reasons for their kid's absence but both were handed on to the prosecutors and sentenced to jail.
Assistant Attorney General Shaun Mackelprang, who is representing the state, argued before the Missouri Supreme Court that the definition of "a regular basis" is attending school every single day of the scheduled year. "Do I have to go to school everyday? The answer is yes," he said. "You have to go to school every day that the school is in session."
What the mothers' lawyer said
A public defender representing the two, Ellen Flottman, argued that the law is unconstitutionally vague and inconsistently applied. "The state's position is anti-parent. Most of the school districts are not prosecuting these parents," Flottman said last Wednesday.
"Schools have to work with parents; they have to have policies because they want the kids to go to school." She continued, "But this is a kindergartener and a first grader. Is missing one day in November and one day in December going to hurt this kindergartener's education that much?"