- The Washington Times - Friday, October 29, 2004

The D.C. Attorney General’s Office yesterday brought charges against 41 parents whose children were not immunized for school in violation of the city’s Compulsory School Attendance Act.

Thirty-four of the parents were arraigned yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, where they were charged with misdemeanor truancy. They face a $100 fine and five days in jail for every two days of school their children were absent.

The Attorney General’s Office brought the charges after an outreach effort by the school system, the city’s Health Department and the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

“Based on the rule, students who are not in compliance are not allowed in school, and they are considered truant. We’ve had a massive outreach to get the students shots,” said Ralph Neal, assistant schools superintendent.

“This says to the parents and the community that District of Columbia Public Schools is very serious about immunization and school attendance,” Mr. Neal said.

On Oct. 1, school officials referred 434 students to truancy court after they failed to provide updated immunization records after 30 days of school.

Superintendent Clifford B. Janey directed his officials to report to the Attorney General’s Office the names of all parents who had failed to get their children immunized by Oct. 15.

Assistant Attorney General Rachele Gaines yesterday said 34 parents appeared before Judge Robert Morin of the Family Court Division. Bench warrants were issued for three parents who failed to appear in court. The court permitted others to appear at a later date.

Ms. Gaines said 10 students were seen by a Health Department nurse at the courthouse and two received their required immunizations. The remaining cases were dismissed or continued to a future date.

“It was a successful day, thanks to the efforts of the District of Columbia Public Schools, Family Court and our office,” Ms. Gaines said. “We were able to arrange and ensure immunizations of 34 students out of the 41 that were set for arraignment today.”

Some parents were angry because they said school officials lost their children’s records and penalized them.

“I already got my child’s shots, but the school took their time making copies of the record,” said Patricia Williams, 35, whose son, Dominque, attends Spingarn High School in Northeast.

She said his shot records show he received a hepatitis vaccine Oct. 14, the same day he enrolled at the school.

Lenee Lyles, mother of a 16-year-old Anacostia High School student, said the school apparently lost her daughter’s record from September 2003. Her daughter, Dene, said she missed school because her own baby was sick, but when she returned, she was told to leave because she didn’t have a shot record on file.

“It’s not fair to the parent really,” Miss Lyles said outside the courtroom. “Anacostia loses it but makes it my fault.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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