California mom jailed for school-skipping kids

Lorraine Cuevas. (Image from Kings County Sheriff's Department)
A quality education may be an invaluable asset for our children, but how important is having a parent around? In California, one trumps the other.

Lorraine Cuevas, 34, is currently serving a 180-day jail stint after authority's in Hanford, California busted the mother of two for keeping her school-age children at the home more often that the law permits.

Throughout the Golden State, a relatively new legislation limits the amount of days parents are allowed to let their children skip out on school. Under the law, the state can seek punishment for parents that let their children miss out on more than 10 percent of any given school-year. Officials in Hanford say Cuevas shattered the limit when she kept her kids home for 116 days.

Now for not letting her children — one second grader and a third grader — attend class regularly at Monroe Elementary School, both kids will be without their mom while she serves nearly six months behind bars.

The school board stands by the decision, and confirms that Cuevas’ conviction is one of the first made in the entire state over the new law that criminalizes chronic truancy.

“It's a process that takes months to get to this point. On average we're making 15-20 calls in dealing with these issues,” Superintendent Tim Bowers of Kings County Schools tells local network KMPH. Speaking to the New York Daily News, Bowers adds that there are several steps the school takes before it decides to seek police action.

"Part of the attendance review process dictates that we reach out to parents," Bowers says. "[The process includes] phone calls and letters asking why the children are not in school. We also schedule hearings where we invite the children's parents to come to talk to us about it. All of those steps were taken in this case."

Cuevas has so far served roughly one quarter of her 180-day sentence, and is expected to fork over a $2,000 fine as well.

Melissa Mooney, a parent of another child from Monroe Elemtary, tells KMPH that she thinks the punishment is a tad too harsh.

“Who's going to watch the kids if she's in jail?" she asks the network.

James Jahn, chief deputy at the King's County, California District Attorney’s Office, says also endorses the sentencing.

"We are trying to enforce the law and help, not only the school district, but also the kids. If they are in school they are less likely to be involved in gangs or drugs," Jahn tells the NewYork Daily News.