Teenage Honor Student Jailed for Supporting Her Family

by Intern Kerishma

Diane Tran is a straight-A student at Willis High School near Houston, Texas. She takes advanced placement and dual credit courses, and works hard for her good grades. She works two jobs outside of school to support her older brother and younger sister, for whom she is financially responsible. She is also, according Texas law and Judge Lanny Moriarty, a criminal.

Tran was recently sentenced to 24 hours in jail and a $100 fine for missing too many days of school. According to Texas truancy law, a student cannot miss more than 10 days in a 6-month period, whereas local news station KHOU-11 reports that Tran misses around 3 days per month. If a student misses over 10 days, he or she must go to court to have their fate decided by a judge.

This issue becomes an outrage when you look at the circumstances surrounding Tran’s case. She wasn’t missing school because she was out late partying– she’s financially responsible for her two siblings. Her parents divorced some years ago, and both left Houston, leaving the family financial burden on Tran and her siblings. She works for a dry cleaner and a wedding-planning service, and lives with her boss’ family. Her packed schedule often leaves her (understandably) tired, sometimes so much so that she can’t go to school. Despite her exhaustion, her classmates describe her as an exceptional student with a positive attitude.

In spite of all of this, Judge Moriarty decided to make an example of Tran, declaring, “If you let one run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them? Let them go, too?” I’m sure most people would agree that receiving straight A’s, getting college credits in high school, working full-time, and being financially responsible doesn’t constitute “running loose.” In response to the backlash, the Judge said, “A little stay at the jail for one night is not a death sentence.” For a girl who works as hard as Tran, the lost work and school time (not to mention the $100 fine) are considerable trouble.

Tran’s boss agrees, stating, “I can understand if a child is staying out of school, running around, a bad kid, getting into trouble, taking drugs…I can understand why he would slap them into jail for 24 hours. But Diane doesn’t do that. All she does is work and go to school.” 

Tran’s story went viral, and an outpouring of support has sprung up for her. A classmate started a change.org petition (which has over 134,000 signatures) to cancel her fine and sentence, and a non-profit group called Help Diane Tran is raising money to aid her and her family.

(Image via KHOU-11)

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