– The state House today in Harrisburg approved legislation known as “Eileen’s Law” that was introduced by Rep. Mark Gillen (R-Berks/Lancaster) following a local tragedy. The bill became part of a comprehensive effort to review and improve truancy policies and laws in Pennsylvania.
“We have seen the tragic and inadvertent impact truancy laws can have on families in our own area,” said Gillen, referring to the death in June 2014 of Eileen DiNino of Reading.
DiNino, a 55-year-old mother and grandmother, died while serving a two-day sentence in the Berks County jail. The sentence was imposed as a way to erase DiNino’s approximately $2,000 in fines and court costs related to her children’s absences from school.
Gillen introduced House Bill 141
to give judges more flexibility when penalizing parents convicted in school truancy cases.
Current law allows the parent or guardian of a truant child to be sentenced to pay a fine of $300 and court costs or attend parental education classes. Failure to meet those penalties results in being sentenced to a county jail for a period of up to five days.
Gillen’s bill would allow a judge to sentence the parent or guardian to community service instead of paying the fine or attending the classes. It also would remove the mandatory sentence of jail time if a parent or guardian fails to fulfill the initial penalty. Judges would be permitted, but not obligated, to sentence parents to jail time.
The state House last year approved a resolution creating a comprehensive advisory committee to examine truancy issues across the Commonwealth. The committee will be meeting regularly and is expected to release a report on the issue by October.
“We need to approach the issue of truancy reform in a holistic manner in Pennsylvania,” said Gillen. “Our work is just beginning and the approval of my bill is just a starting point. We will work in a bipartisan manner on this issue from a comprehensive perspective with the intention of addressing the substantial challenge of truancy and the incarceration of parents, grandparents and other guardians.”
Gillen’s legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Residents interested in learning more about Gillen can visit his website at www.RepGillen.com
and follow him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/RepGillen
Representative Mark Gillen
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Dan Massing