School 'Fails' Honor Student With Jail Sentence for Missing Class

jailWhen a student is absent from school a lot, it's usually a red flag that something bigger is going on. Something problematic -- like that child is up to no good. But it could also be something else. Seventeen-year-old Diane Tran is an honor student who is taking AP and college level classes at Willis High School in Texas. Her parents divorced and moved away, leaving her with her two siblings who she helps support by working a part-time job and a full-time job ... in addition to attending school.

So while she is struggling to make ends meet financially, she still maintained excellent grades and even has the positivity to say she has a "happy family." But because her school reported her excessive absenses to juvenille court, Tran was arrested, given a $100 fine, and forced to spend the night in jail.


Texas law states that if a student has over 10 absences, the school may report it to the courts. The case was given to judge Lanny Moriarty who quipped how it's just a little stay in jail one night -- it isn't a death sentence. I guess he feels jail is no big deal for a 17-year-old who in my eyes wasn't doing anything that deserved being thrown behind bars for 24 hours. He said: "If you let one run loose, what are you gonna do with the rest of 'em? Let them go, too?"

I'm outraged. For so many reasons.

Tran was crying when KHOU-11 interviewed her about this, but her friend and classmate Devin Hill spoke and said how she goes "from job to job from school" and "stays up until 7:00 in the morning doing her homework." That leaves little time for sleep, which is why Tran has so many "unexcused" absences. Still, I can't help but wonder why the school wasn't aware of her situation and tried to work something out instead of reporting this to the courts. Her parents seemingly abandoned her, and she lives with the family that owns the wedding venue where she works on weekends, and works really hard to help support her two siblings and she is just an 11th grader -- an 11th grade honor student at that.

Yes, she was warned in April not to miss more classes or be late, but she says sometimes she falls asleep and doesn't make it to school. Other times she makes it in but just after the bell rings so she is marked as tardy.

I'm not the only one upset by this. has raised almost $50,000 as of press time. And there is a petition to cancel her fine.

Diane is a remarkable teen -- doing so much in one day just to survive. She didn't deserve jail or a fine. The judge should re-consider and I hope her school is now fully aware of her situation and finds a way to make this work -- she has a whole senior year ahead of her and deserves to graduate without facing any issues.

What do you think of Diane Tran's story? Was the judge fair? Do you think the school should have done things differently?


Image via allistair/Flickr

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