Texas honor student jailed for truancy gets charges dismissed
HOUSTON -- A Texas judge has set aside contempt charges against a 17-year-old Houston-area honor student jailed for missing too much school as she worked to support her family.
Last week, Justice of the Peace Lanny Moriarty sent 11th-grader Diane Tran to jail for 24 hours and ordered her to pay a $100 fine for excessive truancy. The ruling came after Tran had been issued a warning by a judge last month about her absences.
The honor student had been working two jobs to support her two siblings after her parents divorced. She’d reportedly missed 18 days of school this year -- eight more days than allowed in a six-month period, according to state law.
After intense public outcry about the penalty, Moriarty met with lawyers from both sides Wednesday. Tran’s attorney, Brian Wice, told the Los Angeles Times that, after discussing the case, Moriarty showed a “willingness to find common ground and ultimately do what was fair, right and just.”
Moriarty apparently decided to dismiss the charges after reviewing the circumstances that lead Tran to miss so much school and the fact that her court summons failed to notify her of her right to an attorney, officials told the Houston Chronicle.
The justice of the peace signed an order late Wednesday at the district attorney’s request setting aside contempt charges against Tran, clearing the way for the teen to have her record expunged.
Wice, who has represented Tran pro bono, said he plans to work with another lawyer to have Tran’s record expunged.
“Today’s her last day of school. She is elated, she’s gratified,” Wice said Thursday.
He said Moriarty asked him during the Wednesday meeting to “please do what you have to do to make sure she’s not a guest in my courtroom again.”
“I think that Diane understands the monumental importance of going to class and being on time,” Wice said Thursday. “I don’t think we’re going to revisit this problem in the fall.”
He said Tran plans to keep working her two jobs this summer, for a dry cleaner and a wedding planner.
Since Tran’s story went viral, hundreds of people have rallied to her cause; as of Thursday, Louisiana Children’s Education Alliance had raised more than $100,000 from 49 states and 13 countries.
Wice said Tran was “stunned by the outpouring of support not just from the city and the state and the national level, but from the people she believes are worse off than she is who have stepped up to contribute to her college education.”