Are You


(Protesting Insane Staunton School Truancy Enforcement)

It is error alone which needs the support of government, truth can stand by itself.
—Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia

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This just in from The Guardian: As we knew all along, punitive truancy laws don't help kids learn, they just harm people. In fact, sometimes they kill people.
BREAKING NEWS: See the full story on how Kaye Roberts became an attendance officer. Embezzlement! Investigations! Crime and dishonesty!
You wake up in the morning and your kid is sick. The kid needs to stay home from school and sleep. About 10 a.m. you get a phone call from Barbara Smallwood or her mini-me minion Kaye Roberts. Fear strikes your heart like a thunderbolt. In the normal world, parents decide when their kids need to go to the doctor. In Staunton, Virginia, Barbara Smallwood, Kaye Roberts, and steely-eyed Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Anne F. Reed decide for you. You need to take your kid to the doctor essentially every day that the kid is absent or you will end up in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, being condescended to (and possibly fined), in a secret star chamber proceeding. Even if you do take your kid to the doctor, it may not matter. According to Kaye Roberts, notes are routinely lost by the schools. You may do everything they require of you and still end up with a cop on your porch serving you with papers.

And once you're in their crosshairs, do you ever feel as if they're whispering about you in the corridors and the teachers' lounges? They are. We've heard them. Just recently, while waiting in the office of Shelburne, we heard an employee phone Smallwood to ask her if a doctor's note was sufficient to excuse a kid's absences. After the conversation ended, the caller was rushed at by a clutch of other employees who couldn't wait to hear the juicy details. We've heard many a story from students about the sarcastic, public, unprofessional remarks made by teachers and office ladies about kids who were circling the truancy drain. You're not paranoid after all.

Here is the law they're prosecuting you under: here and here. We can't see where that says you have to take your kid to the doctor for an excuse. Smallwood, Roberts, and Reed think it does. Perhaps they know what they're talking about. We aren't lawyers, but at least some of them claim to be. Given their abysmal conviction rate judges in Staunton don't seem to be fully convinced either.

Why do they try you in secret as if they're ashamed of what they're doing? The Sixth Amendment seems to say that your trial should be public. Their own court rules (PDF, see page 4) seem to say that your trial should be public. Could it be that they're hiding the fact that these prosecutions are wrong, wrong, wrong?

We don't know what can be done about this, but we do know that you can complain. Enough silence about this. It's happening to a lot of people, not just you. We can't afford to take our kids to the doctor for every little cold or flu, and we can't afford an attorney to defend us. We have to pay some fines. For now they have the power to do that to us, but that doesn't make it right.

Barbara Smallwood:
Kaye Roberts:
Anne Reed:
Staunton City School Board members

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