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WASHINGTON. D.C. -- Robert J. Spagnoletti, attorney general for the District of Columbia, announced that his office has filed criminal charges against 41 parents who failed to immunize their children in time to begin the 2004-2005 school year.
Spagnoletti announced that more than 40 parents will be arraigned for violations of the Districts Compulsory School Attendance Act during hearings on Oct. 29, 2004, in D.C. Superior Court. Charges are being brought after close collaboration with the new D.C. Public School Superintendent, Clifford Janey, who instructed school officials to report the names of all parents who had failed to get their children immunized by Oct. 15, 2004, to the Office of the Attorney General. Children who lack proper immunization are not permitted to attend school
Parents who fail to ensure that their children are immunized in a timely fashion are in violation of the Compulsory School Attendance Act. Under the law, parents, guardians and caretakers who reside in the District, whether permanently or temporarily, are required to enroll children between the ages of 5 and 17 in school. The law applies to all District children who will turn 5 on or before Dec. 31, 2004. Under the measure, parents, guardians and caretakers can be criminally prosecuted if they fail to ensure that children in their custody or control are attending school regularly.
At Spagnoletti's direction, the Juvenile Section of the Office of the Attorney General will offer eligible parents deferred sentencing to avoid jail time if they get their kids immunized. In addition, the Office of the Attorney General, the D.C. Public Schools, and the Superior Court have arranged for health officials to be on site in Superior Court to provide immunizations.
According to Spagnoletti, "Too often our children are left disadvantaged early-on as a result of parents or other caretakers who fail to ensure that children are enrolled in and attending school on a daily basis." Spagnoletti, who is also responsible for the prosecution of juvenile offenders, further emphasized that "many of the children and teenagers that we see in the juvenile justice system have a long and disturbing history of truancy that dates back to as early as five or six years of age." By enforcing the District's compulsory school attendance laws and holding parents accountable, Spagnoletti hopes that many of the children can be guided along the right path early in life. "It is in everyone's best interest that our kids attend school-we owe it to them," remarked Spagnoletti.
Source: Washington, D.C. Attorney Generals Office