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A Virginia couple faces criminal charges for their children's constant tardiness to school, in a case that spotlights state truancy laws. Mark Denicore, the children's father and an attorney, may even lose his law license.
Denicore and his wife Amy, of Waterford, Va., were arraigned Feb. 6 for their children's tardiness. The Denicores' three kids, all under age 10, have been late to school 85 times since September, the local Loudon Times reports.
But the kids have only been a few minutes late each time -- less than three hours, total, by Mark Denicore's count. School officials are being unreasonable by prosecuting him, he said -- and they're misreading the law.
“The Virginia truancy statute is for kids that are blowing off school without their parent’s knowledge, not for this kind of thing,” Mark Denicore told the Times. “They’re taking a lot of leeway in their interpretation of what the code says to make it criminal conduct. It’s outrageous.”
Virginia law calls for written notice to parents when their child is absent for five days without a valid excuse. A sixth absence calls for a parent-teacher conference; seven or more absences can land parents in court.
Virginia parents can face fines or even jail time for failing to supervise their school-age children. Similar truancy laws are in effect in other states as well.
The Denicores received written notice about their children’s truancy, but tell the Times that school officials did not respond to requests to set up a meeting.
However, a literal reading of the law suggests Mark Denicore may be correct about school officials’ legal misinterpretation. Virginia’s truancy law uses the word “absence,” and does not mention tardiness. A court may have to decide if the statute encompasses tardiness as well.
Mark and Amy Denicore face up to $3,000 in fines if convicted for their children’s tardiness. Their trial is set for March 14.