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Parents jailed in truancy cases

February 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Washington County District Court Judge Ralph France on Wednesday ordered three parents to jail terms because their children hadn't been attending school.

Two other parents, a Russian couple, walked out of Washington County District Court without penalty because their children are attending school.

The truancy cases heard Wednesday included:

  • William and Susan Pompell, ages unknown, of 342 South St., were each found guilty of failure to send their 14-year-old son to school.

France imposed the maximum 10-day jail sentence on each.

  • Annette S. Bartles, age unknown, of 299 Summit Ave., was found guilty of not sending her 14-year-old daughter to school and was sentenced to 10 days in jail, all but one day suspended.

Bartles was fined $50 and placed on supervised probation for one year. And the child must attend school, France ordered.

The Russian couple, Grigory and Lubou Atamanchuk, ages unknown, came into court with two Russian interpreters and two Hagerstown attorneys. Within minutes they had fired the two attorneys and pleaded not guilty.

Through his interpreter, Grigory Atamanchuk, of 921F Main Ave., told France he and his wife have been in the U.S. for eight years illegally.

"The government brought us to this country under armed guard," Atamanchuk said. "We're not allowed to move to Israel."

Lubou Atamanchuk said, through her interpreter, she didn't want an attorney because attorneys only help the state.

"Mrs. Atamanchuk, this isn't the Soviet Union," France said.

Court records showed that a previous court date on these same criminal charges had been postponed.

Then in November, Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, during a civil hearing on the same matter, ordered the couple to send their three children to school.

They did, which was why Wednesday's trial ended with not guilty verdicts, France said.

Jeanette Kaufman, a pupil personnel worker with the Washington County Board of Education, testified Wednesday that the three Atamanchuk children, ages 6, 7 and 8, were now enrolled in Winter Street School, attending regularly and doing well.

The problem began when the family moved out of the Eastern Elementary School district in 1996 and into the Salem Avenue School district.

Kaufman said the couple at first refused to send the children to any school but Eastern.

During a Sept. 30 home visit, Kaufman told the couple she had filed charges against them.

"Mr. Atamanchuk thought it was a KGB conspiracy - he didn't understand," Kaufman said.

On Nov. 7, the couple appeared before Wright and he ordered them to enroll their children at Winter Street, authorizing the change to another district.

The children were enrolled on Nov. 11 and have been attending regularly since then, Kaufman said.

"Why is the state proceeding with this case?" France asked Deputy State's Attorney Charles Strong. "They thought they were being persecuted."

France chalked the problem up to a cultural misunderstanding of the way things are done in the U.S. and found the couple not guilty.

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