A Prince George's couple was fined $4,000 yesterday for letting their two children miss a combined total of 27 weeks of school in the last two years. t
Prince George's District Judge Graydon McKee suspended all but $200 of the fine on condition that "the parents get their kids to school this September." He put the parents, Ronald and Cynthia McKinney of Seat Pleasant on probation for two years.
The McKinneys could not be reached for comment. Information filed with the court as a result of an investigation by the county's Juvenile Services Division states "that although there were family problems, these were not sufficient to prevent the parents from putting the children's educational needs first."
The parents pleaded guilty in District Court in May to failing to assure the attendance of their children, a boy, 10, and a girl, 11, at North Forestville Elementary School in Forestville, Md.
Judge McKee said he at first levied the $4,000 fine, the highest ever imposed on parents in a truancy case in Prince George's, because "it was obvious that the parents never sent the kids to school. It wasn't the kids' fault, they're both young. There was no evidence that the parents were ill -- they both worked -- and couldn't get them off to school."
In most cases, truant children are brought before, Juvenile Court, according to Tex Hughes, court liaison for Prince George's public schools. In this case, Hughes said, "It was obvious that it was the parents, not the children, at fault."
The county official who filed charges, Mary Price, a county public personnel worker who got involved in the case after school officials were unsuccessful, said, "This is really a morale boost for us. The court is being very supportive of our efforts to prevent truancy. Our purpose is to keep kids in school, not to punish anyone, but we tried many other avenues before going to court, and they just didn't work."
Price said both she and the school's principal "contacted the parents, either by phone or in person, a number of times. Every time they said, 'Yes, yes, they'll be at school,' and then the kids didn't show up. The made varied excuses -- the kids missed the bus, they're sick -- every time it was something different."