Houston, TX - A Texas judge threw a 17-year-old honor student in jail for excessive tardiness last week. Judge Lanny Moriarty says he warned high school junior Diane Tran that's what would happen if she was late again.
According to Texas state law, when a student racks up more than 10 absences in a 6-month period a complaint is automatically lodged with the court. Diane spent last Wednesday night behind bars and was ordered to pay a $100 fine.
But the student says she has a good excuse for all her tardies: she's exhausted.
Tran works both a full-time and part-time job to support herself and two of her siblings. She's sent money to help care for a younger sister who's staying with relatives, and an older brother in college ever since her parents divorced and left town last year.
In addition to her heavy workload, Tran has a heavy school load. She's taking honors and Advanced Placement classes with the hopes of getting a scholarship to a good school, and eventually medical school.
She says she loves school and hates to miss it, but her marathon work days often leave her so tired that she sleeps through her alarm, or misses school entirely
Now she's worried her record could derail her plans to become a doctor.
Houston station KHOU asked Judge Moriarty whether there was anything he could to help the teen. He says the case is bigger than Tran.
"If you let one of them run loose what are you gonna do with the rest of them? Let them go too?" Moriarty said. "A little stay at the jail for one night is not a death sentence."
Tran is living with the family that owns the wedding venue she works at part-time. Mary Elliott says Tran is doing the best she can given the situation she's been handed, and she shouldn't be used to set an example.
"Kids are kids," Elliott said. "If they're by themselves then, you know, help them. Don't harm them."
A KHOU reporter explained the particulars of Tran's situation to Judge Moriarty and asked if he would consider removing the mark from Tran's record.
He said he would consider it, but pointed out that he wouldn't want the decision to make him look "soft."