Diane Tran worked two jobs. She worked full-time at a dry-cleaning business and part-time for a wedding planner, while juggling advanced course work in high school. So it shocked the world when honor student Diane Tran was sentenced to jail for 24 hours last week for truancy. Tran said her parents had divorced out of the blue, leaving her to support her two siblings, while juggling a heavy course load at school.
She said she loves school, but ended up missing days because she was so exhausted. Tran is considered an adult under Texas state law, where students are allowed 10 absences at school within a six-month period. Tran’s sentence is considered a misdemeanor on her record, which could affect her chances for future employment and college admissions.
In response to criticisms on the ruling, the judge responded that he intends to make an example of Tran, saying, “If you let one run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them? Let them go, too?”
The judge’s cynicism is alarming, but is sadly the type of attitude that is prevalent throughout the legal system. Many judges are evaluating cases using the law as a black and white formula. Yet, if the laws, and laws alone, spell out all the answers, these judges are grossly overpaid.
Tran is sadly one of many young students struggling to support their families while going to school. Her story is similar to the struggles experienced by many immigrant youths. For others, it’s easy to take for granted the way that laws can often work against the most disenfranchised.
Stories like what happened to Tran can serve as a reminder to the community to oppose laws and approaches that aim only to punish and deter, rather than solve. Under a strong handed approach, the value of each person’s experience and their respective needs are diminished, and everyone is looked upon as carrying the same potential to violate and offend.
The legal system may make such mistakes, but we should not. Rather, as school officials, educators, leaders, friends, and community members, we should be more attentive to those who are struggling.
They may not have the time or ability to seek the help they need, but we can find ways to spot these struggles and bring the right kind of help and support to their doors. (end)
For more information, visit www.helpdianetran.com.