– The House Education Committee today in Harrisburg approved a bill introduced by state Rep. Mark Gillen (R-Berks/Lancaster) known as “Eileen’s Law” that would give judges more flexibility in penalizing parents convicted in school truancy cases.
“Our goal is to keep parents in the home with their sons and daughters,” Gillen said.
Gillen introduced the bill following the tragic death in June 2014 of Eileen DeNino of Reading. DeNino, a 55-year-old mother of seven children, died while serving a two-day sentence in the Berks County jail. The sentence was imposed as a way to erase DeNino’s approximately $2,000 in fines and court costs related to her children’s absences from school.
“This legislation is the embodiment of the desire to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future,” Gillen said. “We want to alter the law in a way that ensures parents continue to have a legal incentive to send their children to school while changing the penalty to avoid another tragedy like this.”
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 new provision would allow judges to consider individual circumstances and address parents’ situations on a case-by-case basis,” Gillen said.
Gillen’s House Bill 141
now heads to the full House 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