Missing school has always been a no-no, but in California, it can land you in jail. But they're not sending wayward students to prison — it's the parents of the school-skippers that are ending up in the slammer.
A California mom was recently sentenced to 180 days of prison time for the chronic truancy of her second and third grade children. The two kids attend Monroe Elementary School in Hanford, California, and had together missed 116 days of school, or about 10 per cent of the school year.
The sentencing of 34-year-old Lorraine Cuevas falls under a new state law, and hers was one of the first arrests made for the crime of chronic truancy. The school board defended the decision, saying Cuevas was warned.
"It's a process that takes months to get to this point," superintendent Tim Bowers of Kings County Schools tells KMPH News. "On average we're making 15-20 calls in dealing with these issues."
Cuevas pleaded guilty to the crime, and became only the second person to be jailed in the county under the new state law this year.
"We are trying to enforce the law and help, not only the school district, but also the kids. If they are in school they are less likely to be involved in gangs or drugs," chief deputy at the King's County D.A.'s office James Jahn tells the New York Daily News.
This isn't the first time Cuevas has been in trouble with the law. According to the Daily News, she's previously been sentenced to two years in jail for stealing Game Boys.
The public's reaction to Cuevas's punishment has been mixed. Some moms at her school think it's too much, like Melissa Mooney, who tells KMPH, "Who's going to watch the kids if she's in jail?"
Others were less forgiving. "'I would've given her a year," says local mother Adriana Castenada. "Honesty, I think that punishment is not enough because a kid's education is really important."
While few parents would disagree with the assertion that a child's education is important, there are likely more than a few moms and dads that question whether prison time is really the answer.