Md. Woman Jailed Over Truant Sons

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The mother of two Rockville teenagers will spend two nights in jail after a Montgomery County jury found her guilty yesterday of failing to send her children to school.

Shirley Heath Lumbao, 44, whose 13- and 15-year-old sons each missed more than 50 days of class during the 2004-05 school year, could face additional jail time if her sons' attendance doesn't improve.

"I took no pleasure in asking the judge to sentence this woman to jail," Assistant State's Attorney Jeffrey Wennar said. "But I thought the message had to be sent to her and to her kids who were in the courtroom [during school hours] and the community that truancy will not be tolerated in Montgomery County."

Neither Lumbao nor her attorney could be reached for comment.

This might be the first time a truancy case has wound up in the county's Circuit Court, Wennar said. Truancy cases are seldom prosecuted in Montgomery because school officials and prosecutors try to work with families and only take them to court as a last resort, he said.

Lumbao, a hotel housekeeper, was convicted of the misdemeanor crime last year in District Court, but she appealed the conviction, which led to yesterday's Circuit Court trial.

Wennar said officials at Julius West Middle School bought the teenagers alarm clocks and offered them incentives, such as movie tickets, to improve their attendance.

He said Lumbao has two jobs and has said that she was unable to get the boys to go to school. Maryland, unlike other states, prosecutes parents, not children, for truancy.

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