Andria Black said in a recent television interview on WXYZ that she was facing a court trial regarding her Autistic son’s attendance issues at Westview Elementary School due to “I’m guestimating it’s about 15 or 16″ absences.” She says the absences began as 10 minute tardies. But the Macomb Intermediate School District paints a different story in this court case.
According to the school district, they have made every effort to communicate with Ms. Black numerous times to no avail about the need to work together for the sake of her 9-year-old son, J’Rez Tarrant, according to the Oakland Press.
“Notes placed in J’Rez’s backpack in an effort to communicate with his mom remained unopened when he returned to school,” according to a report from Malcomb Intermediate School District.
Autistic boys tardies started in 1st grade
The MISD says J’Rez’s attendance issues began as early as 2008-09. J’Rez was enrolled in the first grade that year, but did not begin until mid-year. He was absent or late 128 of the 144 school days that year, but it is easy to see how that could happen when a child does not start school until mid-year.
Given that the school district did not take issue with J’Rez beginning the first year of school until the middle of the year, they had to be aware of extenuating circumstances that warranted it.
J’Rez absences/tardies improved in 2nd grade
In J’Rez’s second year at Westview Elementary, in the 2009-10 school year, officials at the school said the Autistic boy was absent a total of 31 days and tardy 129 times. This actually shows a great improvement over the previous year, if you consider he was only absent one month that year rather than half a school year.
In addition, there is no mention of problems with J’Rez for behavioral problems when he did attend school. So it would appear that the 9-year-old boy functioned well when present.
Autistic boy’s 3rd grade year the best
J’Rez Tarrant’s absences and tardies during his third year of school at Westview, during 2010-11, which also helped culminate in his mother’s current legal woes, saw the Autistic boy missing only 21 days of school, one half day, and tardies totalling 99 times.
So while that may seem like a lot of absences and tardies if one is looking at a child with no disabilities and a perfect home life, it still shows a vast improvement for the 9-year-old Autistic boy and his single mother compared to his first year of school.
Andria Black, therefore, appears to be doing something right, along with the school system, if J’Rez is making improvements of this nature. Yes, the youth is still not where the school district–and maybe even his mother–might wish he were at this juncture in life. However, the young boy is still making progress and that progress is now threatened by a court proceeding which could separate him from a much-needed stable home life.
Jail looms for Autistic boy’s mom?
Unless the Macomb County District Judge John Chmura chooses to acquiesce to Ms. Black’s attorney’s written motions, and the jury chosen wants to reward the improvements that have been made by J’Rez during his school years, Andria Black is most likely facing jail time in this case, in accordance with Michigan law.
Written motions by Black’s attorney Deano Ware will likely mirror his verbal ones in court recently, where he pointed out that the 9-year-old Autistic boy’s absences and tardies for 2008-2010 should not be included in the 2011 charge against Andria Black, despite the fact that they have been lumped together.
Ms. Black has already been arrested in this case for failing to appear in court twice after the truancy charges were first leveled, according to the Oakland Press. A judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest and she had to post a $1,000 bond to secure release.
This legal action did appear to prompt Ms. Black’s willingness to attend a school conference on Dec. 12, which shows she is now willing to communicate with the school system directly, despite her allegedly ignoring previous written communications.
School system polices across the U.S. may appear to be harsh, especially in light of the special circumstances of this Autistic child; however, children with special needs can also have parents with special needs.
If the state doesn’t form some type of policy and corrective action for behaviors irregular to society, how can society help people with special needs move in a more positive direction? On the other hand, flexibility needs to be built into these school truancy and absentee policies for situations that do warrant it.
J’Rez Tarrant and his mother Andria Black have shown progress to a degree in regards to his absences and tardies since he began school three years ago. He went from only attending half of the year to only missing 21 days in 2011. The child is still not where the school district expects him to be in regards to absences and tardies, but he, like the rest of us, is a work in progress.
It appears the school system might need to heed the request Ms. Black put forth in a previous conversation with the attendance officer rather than separate this Autistic boy from his only available parent and send his single mother to jail over his struggles to conform to Michigan’s school attendance policy.
“I asked the attendance officer, you know, could she help me, or give me some, ah, make up some hours, or whatever I can do,” Andria Black said.
References: WXYZ and the Oakland Press