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Truancy mom

Jeff

Authorities say the Lemoore mom arrested for not sending her children to school was cited twice before for the same crime that sent her to jail this week.

The fines were issued to Victoria Jeff, 31, over the last two years for allowing her children to be truant from school. Then, on Tuesday, she became the first person in Kings County charged under the state's Chronic Truancy Law.

Truancy Officer Brian Gonzales said Jeff kept her three children out of school for more than 20 days. When the case was referred to the Kings County Board of Education for possible prosecution, she pulled her kids out of Central Elementary School and switched them to Lemoore Elementary.

"We got a warrant for her arrest some time ago, but we haven't been able to find her," Gonzales said. "She changed her address without informing the school. Finally, we tracked her down to the El Dorado Trailer Park in Lemoore."

Since then, Jeff was bonded out on $30,000 bail. She is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 30 to answer for three misdemeanor counts of allowing her children to be absent from school.

If convicted, she could face up to a $2,500 fine and a year in jail.

"I deal with about 300 to 500 truancy cases a year, and about 150 or more of those are referred over for prosecution," Gonzales said. "Parents need to realize that it only takes five unexcused absences before a case is referred to us. You can be held responsible if your kids, between 6 and 17 years old, are not going to school."

The new Chronic Truancy Law went into effect on Jan. 1 and makes it a misdemeanor to allow your children to miss school. The law defines a child as a "chronic truant" if they are absent for more than 10 percent of the days in a school year.

Superintendent Tim Bowers with the Kings County Office of Education said it is extremely important that kids show up for every day of school.

"We only have 180 days a year, and we need all that time if we are going to do right by the child," Bowers said. "Attendance isn't a huge problem here. Our numbers are pretty strong - usually in the high 90s. But there are a few people who make truancy a problem for themselves. The county as a whole takes it very seriously. We need to make sure children are going to class."

The reporter can be reached at 583-2425 or jjohnson@HanfordSentinel.com.

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