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Judge sentences parents for children's truancy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Arrest warrants were issued for three Kanawha County mothers and another 10 parents received fines, community service and probation because their children have been chronically absent from school.

Circuit Judge Duke Bloom handed down sentences of $211 in fines for each parent. The fees also cover court costs. Each will also face five days of community service and 90 days of probation.

All were charged with first-offense truancy because their children had five or more unexcused absences from school. Most in court Wednesday had children who missed 10 to 41 days of school.

If their children miss any more days, they can be charged with second-offense truancy.

"And that is a jailable offense, and I won't hesitate to do that," Bloom warned the group. "We take this very seriously."

The community service penalty is usually served within the school the child attends.

Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach told the parents ahead of the hearing that the judge would ask them why their child had missed so much school.

"But I'll tell you," he said. "He's already heard all the reasons before."

Giggenbach said children who miss a lot of school, or who drop out, often end up committing crime later.

Sentenced Wednesday were:

* Heather Grimmett, who has an 8-year-old at Point Harmony.

* Tammie Cummings, who has a 12-year-old at Elkview Middle.

* Victoria Blevins, who has an 11-year-old at Belle Elementary.

* Jennifer McClure, who has a 5-year-old at Belle.

* Ronnie White, who has an 11-year-old at Mary Ingles.

* Rebecca Hill, who has a 10-year-old at Andrews Heights.

* Beth Bennett, who has a 6-year-old at Anne Bailey.

* Kristina Wood, who has a 6 year-old at Anne Bailey.

* Rebecca Fowlkes, who has an 8-year-old at Anne Bailey.

* Virginia M. Thomas, who has a 5-year-old at Piedmont.

Sarah Burgess, Amber Sowards and Octavia Sanders failed to appear for the hearing and warrants were issued for their arrest. 

In some cases, Bloom ordered Child Protective Services to get involved in the children's welfare. In others, he ordered evaluations and testing.

"We want your children to succeed," Bloom told them.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.


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