Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Truancy charge in the past

One of accused moms insisted: 'Not guilty'

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Barbara Bass refused to plead guilty to a charge she let her child miss too much school.

Now the prosecutor has backed off.

And her child has not missed a day of school this year.

"I told him that as a single parent, I had done everything I could. That it had consumed my life, and I wasn't going to lay down and take the charge," said Bass, who works the overnight shift at a restaurant. "It has been really embarrassing for me."

She was one of four moms charged in September with educational neglect after their children failed to attend school for 19 to 67 days during the previous year. At the time, County Attorney Garry Edmondson said he was fed up with truancy in the Covington school district and wanted to send a message that it would not be tolerated.

Two of the mothers, Kristie Kirtley and Shawna Walters, pleaded guilty and paid fines totaling $200 each. A third woman, Ryan Watters, failed to appear in court and is considered a fugitive, court records show.

Bass, who pleaded not guilty, received "judicial diversion" last week, meaning the charges have been dropped but can be refiled.

That won't be necessary, Bass says. Since the beginning of this school year, her kindergartner has missed only one day and her third-grader none, she says.

The third-grader attended Glenn O. Swing Elementary School in Covington last year, where records show she missed 19 days.

But Bass said her daughter was battling a head-lice problem that was partly the school's fault.

A month ago, she transferred the children to Fort Wright Elementary School. They're now under the educational guardianship of their father's parents, who live in the Fort Wright district, Bass says.

Neither Edmondson nor Lester Gamble, who handles truancy issues for Covington schools, could be reached for comment. In the past, Gamble has said head lice is not a valid excuse for missing school.


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