sick kid

Do you always give the school a doctor's note when your child is absent because she is sick? I know I don't. When my third grader has a cold, I see no reason to drag her to the doctor when she should be home resting and recuperating. When it's just a virus, the doctor isn't going to prescribe anything or tell us to do anything we don't already know to do. Why go to the hassle and pay the co-pay, right?

Unfortunately, your school may require those sick notes from a doctor or you'll end up in big trouble with the law. Earlier this month, Georgia mom Julie Giles found out there was a warrant out for her arrest because her son Sam had six unexcused absences from school. Giles turned herself in to police, who placed her in ankle shackles—standard procedure in Screven County where she lives. She now faces fines up to $1,000 and as many as 12 months of jail time.

While the Screven County school district allows six excused sick days with just a parent's note, absences beyond that need proof other than a parent's note to be excused. If unexcused absences reach six, the school may take action by referring the situation to a court or police. According to Screven County Schools superintendent William Bland, Giles is not first parent to be arrested for unexcused absences.

Giles told Fox News that she does not always get doctor's notes because the co-pays for the office visits are sometimes higher than she can afford. She says she did have notes for three of the unexcused absences, though, but her son didn't turn them in. To fight the charges, Giles is receiving pro bono legal consulting from the National Association of Parents and has a GoFundMe page to raise money for any extra legal costs. She is due in court July 14.

While I understand schools want to make sure kids are really absent because they are sick, and perhaps allowing six absences with a parent's note should be sufficient, getting the parent arrested seems extreme. Couldn't there be a school-parent conference first to assess whether the absences were legitimate or if the parent is just neglectful? Dragging a kid who doesn't need medical attention to the doctor's office just because you need a note for school seems like a waste of time and money. Is there some other form of proof that could be provided? A photo of the kid languishing on the sofa? A snotty tissue as evidence?

Maybe there's more to the Giles family's story than we have heard, but so far I'm on this mom's side.

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who hates waiting in doctor's offices. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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