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Posted at 10:51 AM ET, 02/06/2012

Judge sets trial date in Loudoun school-tardiness case

Amy Denicore helps her daughter Daisy, 7, with a school project. (Astrid Riecken - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
Amy and Mark Denicore are headed to a full-blown trial to defend themselves against charges that they violated Virginia law by making their kids late to elementary school too often.

The Loudoun County couple was arraigned Monday morning in juvenile and domestic relations court. Judge Pamela L. Brooks set a trial date of March 14.

The Denicores are each charged with three Class 3 misdemeanors, each of which carries a maximum fine of $500. Their three children, ages 6, 7 and 9, have been late to school almost 30 times since September. Most of their tardies were three minutes or less.

Their case has sparked debate about whether the school system is overreacting to a minor offense or rightly clamping down on a habit that’s disruptive to teachers and other students.

(Column | An absurd case: The punishment should fit the crime)

The Denicores — both of whom are trained as lawyers — argue that whatever one’s opinion of their parenting, the county has no legal authority to convict them of a crime.

They are charged under the state’s compulsory education law, §22.1-254, which says parents have to send their kids to school “for the same number of days and hours per day” as school is in session.

Another statute, §22.1-258, clearly spells out how school systems must proceed in the case of chronic absences when there is “no indication that the pupil’s parent is aware of and supports the pupil’s absence.” Neither statute specifically addresses tardiness.

The Denicores said they will move on March 14 to have their case dismissed. If it proceeds, they plan to subpoena a handful of witnesses to testify, including their kids’ teachers and principal.

In court Monday, Brooks told the couple that similar trials are generally scheduled for 12-15 minutes, but there is no time limit for arguments.

More on this story:

On Parenting: How to handle latecomers

Parents say Loudoun officials reaching too far to stop school tardies

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By  |  10:51 AM ET, 02/06/2012

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