Marion County Mom Jailed on Truancy Charges - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Marion County Mom Jailed on Truancy Charges

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By David Carroll

dcarroll@wrcbtv.com

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Marion County School officials say they put it off as long as they could, but Heather Stewart left them no choice.  After repeatedly keeping her 2nd grade daughter out of school, they took her to court.  And Stewart served 48 hours behind bars as a result.

Stewart's child attends Whitwell Elementary School, but not often enough.  She missed 37 days of school this year, along with 12 tardies.  Director of Student Services Mack Reeves said, "We worked with her, we counseled with her, we warned her, and she told us over and over that she would do better.  But she never did."

Reeves said, "Court is a last resort with us, but we've jailed four parents in the past two years.  They ought to know we mean business by now.  And it's working, all of our schools are above the 93 percent threshold of No Child Left Behind.  It's the law, and we're going to obey the law."

Superintendent Dr. Mark Griffith agreed.  "We can't tolerate parents who treat their children this way.  When a child is older, we try to deal with the child.  But these first and second graders aren't responsible, the parent is."

Both Griffith and Reaves praised Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Jay Blevins, who sentenced Stewart.  "Our Juvenile Court supports what we're doing," Reeves said.

Stewart told Eyewitness News that her child's absences should have been excused for medical reasons.  

Reeves said he couldn't explain why some parents do a poor job of making sure their children attend school.  He said, "sometimes you have single parents who just don't have any control.  Other times you have parents who don't want to let go of their kids.  But kids don't need a friend, they need a parent."

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