Mom charged for daughter’s truancy

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Aryanna Kloosterman, age 8, says she likes school, and projects like the chart she put together on the life of Adelie penguins.

The problem is Aryanna has had a hard time getting to school. And the law says it’s her mom’s fault.

“Between the last three years, there were over 100 absences. Is that correct?” asked Wyoming District Court Judge Steven Timmers asked Tonja Kloosterman as she entered a plea earlier this week.

“Yes,” Kloosterman answered.

Tonja Kloosterman has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Her court appearance comes despite the efforts of the Godfrey Lee School District’s All Day Every Day Anti-Truancy Alliance.

Instead of going after the older middle school, junior and senior high students who should be able to get themselves to school, the anti-truancy program targets the problem at a much earlier age.

“We found that in most cases, where we started to see significant absences or  tardiness, it was at the second-, third- and fourth-grade level,” said Wyoming Public Safety Director James Carmody.

If students miss five days of school, parents get a call. Teachers, psychologist, social workers and others in the community then work with the child’s family to get them back in school.  Help could be something as simple as providing a ride or day care.

“We’ve been able to reach out to the community and get some resources, much needed resources, to help these families that are in need,” Carmody said.

If the initial sessions don’t work, police get involved. That’s one way to measure the success. Dozens of parents have participated in Godfrey Lee’s program, but Kloosterman is the first parent to face a judge.

Kloosterman said Aryanna is back on track when it comes to attendance lately, but she says there’s a reason her daughter missed over 100 days of school in a three-year period. Kloosterman says Aryanna has a host of medical problems and getting her to the doctor is a big challenge.

“I have no choice,” Kloosterman told 24 Hour News 8. “Just like for her medication reviews, I have to pull her out when they have them scheduled because I cannot change that appointment.”

The success of the Godfrey Lee’s program has been the ability to help people in extreme situations like the Kloostermans’.

“The family was making some efforts. A lot of advice was given,” Carmody said. “Some of it was followed, some of it wasn’t. Ultimately, at some point, that cooperation dropped off.”

Under a plea agreement, if Aryanna keeps up with attendance, the case will be dismissed and her mother’s clean criminal record will remain that way.

“As long as I do what I’m supposed to and it’s all wiped out and I have nothing to worry about,” Kloosterman said.

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