MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas A Montgomery County Precinct 1 judge who initially sent a truant honor student to jail for contempt of court says he is dedicated to making sure children in his precinct get their high-school diplomas.
Judge Lanny Moriarty became the focus of public outrage after charging Diane Tran, an A-student at Willis High School who s missed 18 days of school this semester, with contempt of court and sending her to jail for a day.
Tran s case went international, with many supporters accusing Judge Moriarty of being too harsh on the teen, who reportedly missed school because she was exhausted after working two jobs to help support her siblings.
After Houston attorney Brian Wice took on Tran s case pro bono Wednesday, the judge decided to dismiss the contempt charges.
But in a statement released Friday afternoon, Judge Moriarty said he was only concerned with the well-being of Tran and other young people in his precinct.
[I have] an acute awareness of the dangers [young people] face in society and a genuine determination to provide whatever guidance or assistance might be necessary to guide them on the path toward a successful future, Moriarty wrote.
While declining to discuss the specifics of the Tran case, Moriarty said his intent is and always has been to make sure students earn their diplomas.
Under state law, any student between the age of 12 and 18 with more than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period is truant.
Tran had appeared in truancy court before and was given a court order not to miss any more class. When she had additional absences, Moriarty charged her with contempt.
Regardless of how high a student s grades may be, if they have too many unexcused absences they will not receive credit for their classes. When a student who has already been to court and been court-ordered to attend school each day continues to have unexcused absences, additional steps must be taken to enforce the law that is meant to ensure they complete their high school education, Moriarty wrote.
Despite the reversal of the contempt charge in the Tran case, Moriarty said he plans to continue to be tough on truancy.
I will continue to hold students, and sometimes parents, accountable for unexcused absences as we work to reduce truancy, lower the dropout rate, and instill in tomorrow s leaders the belief that rules and laws must be followed by all for society to properly function, Moriarty wrote.