HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – A 17-year-old high school honor student who works two jobs and financially supports her two siblings is heading into summer on a sour note after spending a night in jail for being too tired to attend school.
Diane Tran was arrested in open court and sentenced to 24 hours in jail Wednesday after being repeatedly truant due to exhaustion. KHOU reports that Tran, a junior at Willis High School, was warned by Judge Lanny Moriarty last month to stop missing school. When she missed classes again this month, Moriarty wanted to make an example of Tran.
“If you let one (truant student) run loose, what are you gonna’ do with the rest of ‘em? Let them go too?” Moriarty asked, according to KHOU.
Tran told KHOU that in addition to taking advanced and honors classes, she works full-time and part-time jobs in an effort to try to support her older brother at Texas A&M and a younger sister in the Houston area. After Tran’s parents divorced, they both moved away from the honor student and her two siblings.
Tran was also fined $100.
Indeed, Ms. Tran’s predicament is a small part of a greater problem in the U.S.: overcriminalization. Over the past few decades, state and federal lawmakers have made more things illegal and made the punishments for breaking laws more severe. In the case of most criminal laws, no one has asked the key question: “Who’s going to jail?” We as a society are making voluntary and victimless acts criminal simply to express disapproval, without asking what the real human costs of enforcement are. Indeed, the United States has the highest per capita prison population in the world. Over 7 million Americans are in prison, a massive 3% of the adult population. Nonviolent offenders compose more than half of the American prison population.)
Judge Lanny Moriarty
Follow up: 5-31-12
Her story resonated across the country and throughout the world. Nearly $100,000 in donations have come in from 49 states and 18 countries, according to HelpDianeTran.com, a site established in part by the Louisiana Children's Education Alliance (LCEA), a non-profit that focuses on education reform.
"We read the story and our hearts just broke thinking about what this girl had gone through," Charlie Davis, the president and founder of the LCEA, told HuffPost. "At same time we were infuriated that she'd become a victim of both the public education system and the judicial system, and we wanted to do something to help her, to show her some support."
Davis stressed that 100 percent of the money donated outside of the credit card processing fees will be donated to Tran, and said that he's hoping to give the money to the high school junior next week.
Meanwhile, 240,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling on the judge to "to cancel her fine and sentencing."
"I don't think anybody could have conceived of any script where this is the ultimate outcome in the third act,"
CASE DISMISSED AGAINST DIANE TRAN