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Women charged in children's truancy
Two face numerous misdemeanors over excessive school absences
Lee Page 1

Warrants were issued last week for two Dawson County mothers accused of violating the state's school truancy law.

Morgan Lee, 30, of Dawsonville is facing 14 misdemeanor charges, while Anna Rebecca Peacock, 24, has been charged with three counts.

Court records list the charges as violations of Georgia's Compulsory School Attendance law.

Orders for their arrests were issued by Northeastern Judicial Circuit Senior Judge John Girardeau on May 24, the same say a Dawson County grand jury indicted the women on the charges.

According to the indictment against Lee, she failed to send her child to school 14 times, after being notified by Riverview Elementary School administration that the child had more than five unexcused absences.

The indictment says the child missed school on Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 2, 7, 19, Nov. 3-6, Dec. 1 and 4, Jan. 11, 21 and Feb. 9.

Peacock's indictment alleges her child missed March 9, April 27 and May 2 after receiving a similar notification from Black's Mill Elementary School.

Janice Darnell, director of student support, said the Dawson County School System refers cases to the court as a last resort when all other support strategies have not been effective.

"The goal of the school district is to provide support to families before attendance situations have negative effects on student achievement," she said.

All parents with children enrolled in the local system are notified of the compulsory attendance requirements and penalties for non-compliance at the start of school each year or upon registration.

Parent signature is required to indicate receipt of this information.

"As unexcused absences begin to occur, the individual school attendance support teams intervene by communicating with and sending notice to parents," Darnell said.

The system's attendance review committee shall automatically refer students under the age of 16 with 10 or more unexcused absences from any of their subjects to the school social worker, according to the school attendance policy posted online.

Letters are sent to parents at different stages in the unexcused and total absence accumulation.

Additionally, reminders of the compulsory attendance regulation are sent and support meetings are scheduled throughout the process.

"At the 10 unexcused-15 total absence mark, the student attendance situation is referred to the school social worker to begin additional intervention and support to the family," Darnell said. "If this support is not effective, then the student situation may be referred for court intervention."

She said there are not a set number of unexcused absences that prompt school officials to turn cases over to the court system.

"Student situations that are referred to the school social worker are handled on a case-by-case basis. As in most any life situation, there are always other factors that must be considered," Darnell said.  "This is the time when the school district looks to find ways to provide additional support to the family.

"Dawson County has a great school system made up of wonderful, caring teachers and administrators." 

She went on to say that students with good attendance are able to benefit from the quality instructional program that is available every school day.

"Students are provided additional support and opportunities to complete missed assignments; however, it can be very difficult to recover from excessive absences," she said.

Unexcused absences alone will not prevent a child from moving on to the next grade.

"Grades should be a reflection of what the student knows and is able to do in terms of demonstrating mastery of content standards. Promotion to the next grade level is dependent on the student's demonstration of mastery of the content standards," she said. 

"Unexcused absences may have an impact on the student's grades and/or promotion due to the amount of instruction missed."

Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said arresting parents for truancy is uncommon.

"This is unusual. We haven't had this type of arrest very much," he said.

Lee is currently in custody on unrelated charges.

She has been granted an "own recognizance" bond once she is released on the initial charges, Carlisle said.

Peacock was booked on her charges May 31 and bonded out the same day, according to Carlisle.

She was also released on her own recognizance, he said.