If their son's teacher at Anne Bailey Elementary School mentions that the classroom is low on crayons, they send Nathan to school with a backpack full for the whole class.
The school worked with her to get the absences down to five unexcused days.
"(Lilly) said we have it down to five, but you still have to go to court because you've received a summons," Beth said. "She told us not to worry and to try not to stress out about it."
They went, without a lawyer, to the Judicial Annex last Wednesday.
Lilly was at the courthouse as well and spoke to Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach in the hallway outside Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom's courtroom, where the proceedings would take place.
The attendance officer told Giggenbach that Nathan had five unexcused absences.
"He said if it was under four he would dismiss it, but since it's five he has to treat them like everyone else," Beth said.
She said Giggenbach then told her that if either she or her husband pleaded guilty, the charges against the other would be dismissed. She said they were told that if they both pleaded not guilty, Giggenbach would put witnesses on the stand to prove their child's absences.
Beth pleaded guilty, she said, to avoid endangering her husband's job.
"When given the choice of my family getting a paycheck or not, I did what I could do to make sure we had health insurance and a paycheck," she said.
She said the judge asked for her name and plea and then asked how many days her son had missed. She told him five, and then Bloom told her that was the "magic number" they were looking for.
She said Bloom asked her why Nathan had missed so many days and she responded that it was due to illness, but before she could take a breath she was being sentenced.
Bloom sentenced her to five days of community service at the school, a $50 fine plus court costs and 60 days of probation, the standard for those guilty of first-offense truancy.
Beth also now has a misdemeanor on her permanent record.
"We understand the seriousness of this, and we know there have to be laws in place," the mother said. "We just feel like our voice wasn't heard."
Giggenbach said the couple was given an opportunity to speak their piece before and during their appearance at court but did not.
"Before pleading guilty, Mrs. Bennett, along with every other parent, was afforded the opportunity to provide valid excuses reducing the absences below the legal limit," Giggenbach said in a written statement.
"She failed to do so. Mrs. Bennett was also afforded the right to one, hire an attorney or two, have a hearing to dispute the absences.
"She chose to plead guilty, in open court, under oath with signed verified plea documents. Her husband's case was dismissed per usual protocol. She was treated fairly and evenly."
The Bennetts said they are seeking an attorney and hope to have her plea set aside, in hopes of getting the misdemeanor expunged.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.cr...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.
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