By Christy Millweard
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - You can ground them, take away privileges, or even lecture them, but what do you do if your child still refuses to go to school? One woman finds herself in that very situation. Susan G. Hager is charged with violation of education requirement for a child. Basically, her son has missed too much school. Today, a Cape Girardeau County judge gave her one month to gather the money to pay a fine. The Prosecuting Attorney's office says if she doesn't she could see up to two years probation. But the spokesman says jail time is off the table. One local parent says she thinks it is the parent's responsibility to get the child to school, no matter how old her or she is.
"Not all of it is a parent's problem, but it's a parents job to fix the problem," said Robin McCollough.
McCollough is a parent who feels as though parents need to be active in their child's life. She says that can include volunteering at the school, supporting the child at games or activities, and making sure their kid gets to school.
"Even as a parent you may have to physically take them to school, and you know that's not comfortable for you, that's not comfortable for the child, but the parent is the one in control," said McCollough.
And she says as the one ultimately in control, the parent is the ultimately the one responsible. Now, meaning the consequences will come from the law.
"As a parent if you're not going to teach your kid to make good choices, than you're going to have negative consequences, to me I don't understand how anyone could expect it to be any other way," said McCollough.
"When it comes to attendance it's very simple, if you're not here, we can't teach you," said Cape Central High School Principal Mike Cowan.
Cowan says it's important for kids to be at school. His high school students are each allowed 5 days of unexcused absences. No more. He says he's met with employers from around the state who say showing up, is probably the most important part of the job.
"They went right to attendance, you know showing up everyday, on time, punctuality," said Cowan.
"In this day and age you practically can't even flip hamburgers at McDonalds if you don't have a high school diploma, so where are you going to work?" said McCollough.
McCollough says even if you're child is older, in some ways, you might have to go back to the basics.
"It's just like brushing you're teeth and tying your shoes, they have to be taught," said McCollough.
There have been a few other people charged with the same crime as Hager. Two of the cases were excused after the parents provided documents like doctor's excuses. The other two are still active, but Hager is the only one who has entered a plea.
More parents charged under Cape Girardeau schools' tougher attendance policy
The first parent charged under Cape Girardeau School District's beefed-up attendance policy is set to be sentenced later this month, and three more parents face charges for failing to get their children to school.
Susan G. Hager, 44, 1413 William St., pleaded guilty this week to educational neglect, or violating the compulsory school attendance law. Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28, according to Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.
Hager faces a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail, a $300 fine and the possibility of probation of up to two years on the misdemeanor charge.
School records show Hager's 16-year-old son, Brandon W. Hager, had 15 unexcused absences between Aug. 20 and Oct. 26, according to the probable-cause statement filed by the prosecuting attorney's office. Though Susan Hager received several warning letters from the school and a hand-delivered letter from the prosecuting attorney's office warning of pending prosecution, she "still failed to make sure the child attends school," according to the court document.
Brandon Hager in December told the Southeast Missourian he had been suspended from the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center.
Susan Hager told the judge in the case that she intends to homeschool her son, Swingle said.
"She will have to keep meticulous records of what she is teaching the child," he said. "When you homeschool, that doesn't mean you get to keep your child out of school and that's it."
The tougher attendance policy, rolled out last semester, makes 10 unexcused absences an actionable offense.
Also charged is Laura Hogeland, 35, 2825 Whitener St., C4. Hogeland's daughter, who attends Cape Girardeau Central Junior High School, had 18 unexcused absences through Jan. 4., according to her probable-cause statement. Hogeland received a hand-delivered warning letter Nov. 8 advising her that her daughter had 10 unexcused absences and that the mother faced prosecution for educational neglect. Her arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 17.
Nicole L. Alvarez, 34, 319 N. Louisiana Ave., was charged last month after her son, also a student at Cape Girardeau Central Junior High School, had 17 unexcused absences. Court documents show he had seven more unexcused absences after Nov. 30, when a prosecuting attorney investigator delivered Alvarez the warning that prosecution was imminent. Alvarez is expected to appear in court 9 a.m. Feb. 24.
Daniel Pieper, 43, 408 S. Hanover St., is the latest to be charged under the compulsory school attendance law. Pieper's son, a student at Cape Girardeau Central Middle School, had 11 unexcused absences through Jan. 26, according to court documents. He has had one unexcused absence since Jan. 19, when Pieper received the warning letter.
Swingle said the charges should have a deterrent effect.
"And our investigator is going around delivering letters to others letting them know they will be charged, so these [parents being prosecuted] are by no means the only ones in peril of being charged," Swingle said.
Carla Fee, principal at the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center, said the tougher policy is making a tremendous difference in attendance, especially in the district's elementary schools.
The Southeast Missourian is seeking first-semester attendance information from the school district.
Fee said the schools are trying to remain in contact with parents of students with attendance problems, using every resource available to "help families so they don't get to that 10-day threshold."
"We're getting our message out to the community, to businesses, to help us promote the importance of education and the importance of being there every day," she said.
I would move.