Adoptive Mom Wrongly Charged With Neglect Thanks To Absurdly Rigid Truancy Laws

court-judge-gavelTruancy laws exist to protect kids, but in some instances they absolutely go too far. Such was the case for Washington, D.C. mom Jessica Smith who recently brought her adopted son, Ziggy, with her to Mongolia so they could adopt a second child. According to the Washington Post, Smith received a call from the same orphanage where she adopted Ziggy saying they had another young boy in their care. Ziggy had been asking about his homeland and Smith knew she had a better chance of being approved for the adoption of a second child if she brought Ziggy with her, so she decided to see if it was a possibility to bring him along on the 3-week excursion:

Smith asked Peter Young, the principal of Brent Elementary School on Capitol Hill, if this trip could be considered an emergency, if she could put Ziggy on a study plan while they were gone…

She got a study plan, lugged along a six-inch-high pile of homework and even hired a tutor in Mongolia to keep Ziggy up on his studies.

Smith covered all the bases, which is why she was shocked to receive a summons to appear in court on charges of criminal neglect for Ziggy’s absence. Even more outlandish, the summons came a full year and a half after their trip to Mongolia took place. The charges were eventually dropped, but not before several court appearances and an investigation took place. Despite how insane this whole thing sounds, a spokesperson for the school district says they stand by the way the case was handled.

”What I believe is most important to emphasize here is why these protocols exist in the first place, which is to protect children,” Salmanowitz said. ”It is explicit for a reason ”” that reason being that no matter why the absence, someone is looking out to make sure the child is safe.”

He’s right: someone should always be looking out to make sure these kids are safe, and I’m sure there are people who commit heinous abuses that would otherwise go unnoticed if not for truancy laws that require educators to find out where their students are. This was not one of those cases, though. Ziggy had been back in school for two months when his prinicipal signed the truancy referral. He wasn’t in danger and his school knew it.

There has to be a way for people in unique situations like Smith’s to ensure they’re not going to end up in court because their children took an extended absence for a very real, very important reason. The chance for Ziggy to see and experience Mongolia and to be present for the adoption of his brother was once in a lifetime, and arguably more valuable than whatever his second grade class was doing. School is important, yes, but there is life outside of school. It doesn’t suit us to criminalize anyone who misses school for any reason in our efforts to protect children from harm. It’s a waste of resources that could be used to help children who are actually being injured and neglected.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Similar Posts