Albemarle parent charged with truancy continues to advocate for son

Published 2:22 pm Monday, August 15, 2022

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An Albemarle mother has continued her fight to re-enroll her child in Stanly County Schools by speaking out at the latest school board meeting, and she plans to continue doing so at future meetings.

Morgan Perez was hopeful her son Jaxon, a third grader, would be able to re-enroll in Endy Elementary School’s Dual Language Immersion (DLI) Program for the upcoming school year.

Perez has homeschooled her son for much of the year after the system charged her with truancy in late January. Jaxon had 16 unexcused absences at the time. Under state law, parents of students who accumulate more than 10 unexcused absences are at risk of being charged with truancy if they don’t make a good-faith effort to ensure their children attend school.

She said she provided reasons in advance for each of his absences, the majority of which occurred in January during the height of the COVID omicron surge and when no long-term remote option was available.

Perez said she communicated daily with her son’s teacher and had him complete his assignments, according to documents she shared with The Stanly News & Press. She also was in contact with principal Jodi Autry and said her son would be coming back once Covid numbers improved.

Her regular contact with the school made it surprising to her when on Jan. 25 she was told by the school’s social worker she would be charged with truancy. She said a few days later police officers delivered a criminal court summons.

Though her charge was dropped, Perez said she appeared in court multiple times.

In May, she met with Autry and SCS Director of Student Services Beverly Pennington about the process of re-enrolling. She was told her son would have to pass four assessments to be able to return.

Her son took the tests at the school in early June. A few days later, she learned he failed three of the four. She requested an explanation of the assessments and scoring system but said she’s not received an adequate response.

Perez requested a hearing before the board to discuss a “more accurate way to determine whether he is ‘eligible’ to return to the dual language immersion program,” according to emails shared with the SNAP.

She emailed board members, Autry and Superintendent Jarrod Dennis for more information but said she only heard back from board chair Glenda Gibson.

In a June 23 email, Gibson wrote to Perez that the matter was settled since Jaxon received his opportunity to re-enroll through the tests.

“The district has gone above and beyond working with you and your son in regards to the DLI placement, especially given the excessive amounts of absences over the past two years in the program,” Gibson wrote.

Gibson declined to further comment.

“Due to this being an individual student matter, the school system cannot legally address this situation,” SCS told the SNAP by email. “Stanly County Schools will not engage in the airing of student matter grievances through any media platforms.”

In an email to the SNAP, Dennis said the school system sent home a disclosure agreement to Perez, which, if signed, would have allowed it to share SCS’s side of the story without violating FERPA laws.

Perez, who said she felt she was pressured to quickly sign the form, refused. “They were very upset that I did not sign that paper on the spot,” she said, noting she first wanted her husband and lawyer to look it over.

Perez and her mother spoke before the board during the public comments portion of the Aug. 2 meeting about their displeasure with how the ongoing situation has been handled. She said she plans to continue speaking at board meetings.

As for her son, Jaxon began third grade on Monday.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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