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Mom jailed for daughters' school absences

January 12, 1998

Mom jailed for daughters' school absences

By AMY WALLAUER

Staff Writer

A former Hancock woman is serving a 15-day sentence at Washington County Detention Center for allowing her two daughters to miss 41 school days in six months without valid excuses.

Karina Yonker of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was found guilty on Wednesday of two counts of violating the Maryland compulsory school attendance law, according to court records.

District Court Judge Ralph H. France II sentenced her to five days for one count and 10 days for the second.

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According to attendance records from the Washington County Board of Education, one daughter, then 15, had 22 1/2 unexcused absences and 18 excused absences between Sept. 18, 1995, and March 26, 1996.

A second daughter, then 14, had 18 1/2 unexcused absences and 18 excused absences during the same period.

That works out to one day off for each girl for every 3 1/2 days they attended.

Both girls have since turned 16 and have dropped out of school, said Joe Millward, supervisor of pupil personnel and guidance for the school board.

He said the school board could have pressed charges for several counts but decided not to.

"We want to send a message. We don't want to hurt anybody," Millward said. "We have in the past taken people to court. We don't try to do that on a regular basis. It's kind of a last resort sort of thing."

Millward said the board looked at other options before filing the charges.

The maximum penalty for violating the Maryland compulsory school attendance law is a $50 fine and 10 days in jail for each count.

Millward said this wasn't the first time the law has been enforced, and it isn't the harshest sentence a parent has faced.

"It's not something we like doing, it's not something we look forward to doing, but we've got to send a message," Millward said. "There are two younger children who actually do live here with other relatives and are attending regularly now and I think that speaks for the message which was sent."

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