SYLVANIA, Ga. – A Georgia mother and substitute teacher was arrested, shackled and jailed last week because her honor roll son was sick and missed more days than his school allows.
Julie Giles, a mother in Screven County, Georgia posted a message to Facebook last week about a letter she received from her son Sam’s school regarding his absences and state law that allows local law enforcement to jail parents of students who miss too many classes, The Free Thought Project reports.
Sam has had 6 more unexcused absences (an absence without a doctor’s note) than the county allows per year this year. I received a certified letter Saturday about this issue and Keith [my husband] contacted the [Board of Education] on my behalf yesterday while I worked subbing. I have been notified that a warrant for my arrest will most likely be issued. My family’s doctor has written a character reference for me, and I have the support of many [Board of Education] employees, but at the moment it still appears I will be arrested. If the Sheriff and the Attendance Officer moves forward I will be given the opportunity to turn myself in. I spoke to a county employee yesterday that says arrest IS likely.
” … the doctor reissued 3 excuses that Sam didn’t turn in, so basically I am being arrested for THREE days,” she wrote.
Giles commented on Twitter that an arrest warrant was issued Thursday, and she turned herself in. She now faces a new court date, despite her son’s stellar grades – four As and four Bs – and his recent status as Student of the Month.
She wrote about the experience on her Facebook page.
“I am home. I was actually placed in ankle shackles!! I was told that doing so is procedure,” Giles posted. “I was respectful and followed directions. Sheriff Mike Kile allowed me to leave after being booked and photographed without having to call a bondsman. I will call tomorrow to get my court date. Thanks for the support!!”
After a little research, Giles realized that neighboring school districts implement several interventions and communications with parents about student absences before resorting to handcuffs, and she launched a GoFundMe page to help fight back against the system.
Giles wrote that she wasn’t informed about her son’s absence problem until days before her arrest warrant was issued.
“I believe that education is paramount. I understand that attendance is a crucial part of academic success. I know that laws need to be put into place to protect children, but putting parents in shackles isn’t the answer. I feel that the actions taken against me show no real concern for my son,” she wrote, according to MadWorldNews.com.
“Surrounding counties implement social worker visits, more meetings, and set a court date before police action is taken. Only is a warrant issued in these areas when the court date is missed. This abuse of power is hurting families. Both of my sons have been traumatized. I believe that there needs to be more than one meeting with the parent before the parent is arrested.”
Keith Giles also commented on the situation on Facebook.
“It is a state law, but none of the other school districts enforce it this strictly. In my opinion they have denied my child and my wife due process,” he wrote. “All of the other counties have MANY more steps in the process. It is a clear abuse of power and needs to be addressed.”
WTOC television station contacted Screven County School Superintendent William Bland, who didn’t seem overly concerned about Giles’ plight.
He told the news site that several other parents have been jailed this school year, and officials are simply following the law.
“It’s important for these children to be in school and I think the courts recognize that,” Bland told WTOC.
Giles is expected back in court July 14 to face a fine for each of her son’s “excess” absences of between $25 and $100, as well as the potential for additional jail time, she posted to Facebook. In the meantime, the family listed their home for $140,000 and hope to move to a new community for a fresh start.
Other parents who have been jailed for their child’s attendance issues didn’t have the same opportunity.
Eileen DiNino, a Pennsylvania mother of seven, died in her jail cell last June while serving a 48-hour sentence for failing to pay school truancy fines.
“She had racked up $2,000 in fines, fees and court costs since 199 as the Reading School District tried to keep her children in class, most recently at a vocational high school,” the Associated Press reported.
The fine stemmed from nine active truancy cases involving 55 citations, according to the news service.
The fines were small, but the court costs quickly accumulated and DiNino was unable to pay.