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Parents sentenced for children's excessive absences

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nine parents were sentenced in Kanawha Circuit Court Wednesday for their children's excessive school absences.

All were charged with first offense truancy because their children had five or more unexcused missed days. The nine students involved were absent between 11 and 29 1/2 days.

Arrest warrants were issued for five mothers who failed to show up after being summoned to court to answer the charges. They are: Janice Darby, Jessica L. Abshire, Leigha Schmitt, Raven Daniels and Charlotte Hicks.

Those who pleaded guilty were:

* Diana Burdette, who has an 8-year old at Flynn Elementary who missed 18 days

* Jennifer Saunders, who has a 10-year-old at Flynn Elementary who missed 28 days

* Nicole Woods, who has a 7-year-old at Andrews Heights Elementary who missed 13 days

* Michelle McMillion, who has a 9-year-old at Belle Elementary who missed 11 days

* Kristin Johnson, who has a 6-year-old at Grandview Elementary who missed 12 days

* Arika Hudnall, who has a 6-year-old at Sharon Dawes and Pratt elementaries

* Michelle Woods, who has a 10-year-old at Pratt Elementary who missed 20 days

* Misty Green, who has a 7-year-old at Sharon Dawes Elementary who missed 29 1/2 days

* Rebecca Lewis, who has a 13-year-old at South Charleston Middle who missed 15 days. 

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ordered all to pay a $50 fine plus court costs for a total of $211. They were also each given 90 days probation and five days of community service. That community service is usually served at the child's school.

One parent pleaded not guilty. Melissa D. Tate, who officials say has a 7-year-old who has missed 20 days at Mary C. Snow Elementary, disputed those absences. The judge scheduled another hearing in Tate's case.

First offense truancy is a misdemeanor and not a jailable offense. But Bloom has ordered incarceration for some parents charged with a second offense when their children continue to miss days.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.

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