Mother Faces Jail For Autistic Son’s Absences


27-year-old Andria Candice Black could face jail time because her son, 7-year-old J’Rez Tarrant, who is autistic, has been late to school or absent numerous times in recent years. Administrators in the Fitzgerald Public Schools and Macomb Intermediate School District in Michigan have accused Black of a misdemeanor offense, saying that J’Rez was chronically late or absent. According to the Macomb Daily, Black only provided a medical note for one of those days.

Violating the Michigan Compulsory School Attendance Act can mean a sentence of two to 90 days in jail.

Deano Ware, one of Black’s lawyers, has accused the school district of being “heavy handed” in seeking the charge against her. The legal charges are “not going to solve anything,” Ware underscored after his client’s trial on Thursday was postponed. Ware contends that the school district has unfairly added up J’Rez’s absences and late arrivals to school all the way back to 2008, while only charging her in 2011.

Black is a single mother, and, as she told reporters, incarcerating her could be severely disruptive to J’Rez who, like many autistic individuals, has a deep need for routine and regularity in his life.

MISD Attendance Officer Judith Sutherland noted in a report that J’Rez was “absent 31 days and tardy 129 times in second grade”; that he missed “21 days of classes, one half-day, and was brought to school late 99 times” in the 2010-11 school years.” Sutherland says that Black did not attend “numerous” meetings requested by school officials and notes placed in J’Rez’s backpack to communicate with her were unopened. But only this school year did administrators take more serious actions:

Between last September and mid-December, J’Rez wasn’t in class on 10 days without explanation; missed five half-days; and was dropped off late 41 times. The truancy charge was filed against Black and she failed to appear in court twice, prompting the judge to issue a bench warrant for her arrest, court documents show. Fitzgerald representatives referred the matter to the MISD again in November. Black was later arrested and released after posting $1,000 bond.

J’Rez tardiness and absences are certainly a long-term issue and should have been addressed back in 2008 when they started. Due to J’Rez’s being on the autism spectrum, the difficulties of getting him to school on time and simply to school at all should have been addressed in developing J’Rez’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). By not addressing the issue sufficiently at a much earlier stage, the school district was tacitly condoning it. J’Rez himself may have become so used to arriving late to school that teaching him to get to school earlier and on time seems impossible for Black. The Macomb Daily does not say why she did not show up for school meetings until this past December; one has to ask, were they set up at times mutually agreed upon by her and the school district? Was she not even able to appear in court because she feared to leave J’Rez?

District Judge John Chmura has given Black’s lawyers two weeks to file any motions in the case.


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Mindy Snyder
Mindy Snyder3 years ago

I'm not sure how I feel about this situation. If she really is trying to get the boy to school on time then great. But maybe getting up earlier or something might help him life a normal life. I don't know what its like to have kids yet but my mom works with special needs children. And she does a mighty fine job.

Karla B.
K B.4 years ago

Please sign the following petition to help advance education in the world, and make school staff/teachers more sensitive to children diagnosed with ADHD ..

Brenda S.

I think that the unopened correspondence in her child's backpack shows that maybe the school isn't entirely in the wrong. I think that in not pursuing a truancy case earlier the school is showing an attempt of understanding issues related to having a child with this diagnosis. Mom, did not do her job in communicating with the school.
There may be other issues at hand that we, the public are not aware of, that should be taken into consideration before passing judgement on the school. It is the schools job to ensure that all children receive an education, and they would be negligent in not following through at this stage in the game.The child is now in 3rd(?) grade.
Maybe, now that the school is pursuing truancy the Mother will be willing to have a TSS worker, BSC or Mobile therapist come to the home and school to assist her, her child, and the teachers with whatever issues are keeping him from getting to school, as well as whatever issues may arrive when he does get to the school.

Janice M.
Janice Ma4 years ago

To Lika S,
Your 28 hour comment was interesting. A few years ago (when my husband and others were complaining that I went to bed too late) I commented that what I really needed was a 28 hour day. I had figured out with how late I was staying up that a 28 hour day would be perfect for me. Frankly, I think that humans are SUPPOSED to be on a 28 hour day. I think I remember a study saying that also. I'll have to look it up.

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

Many autistic kids are on a different body clock, and may end up wanting to go to bed later and later in the day, because they're running on a 28 hour day, not a 24 hour day, or something of that sort. So, maybe schools need to consider that, and be more empathetic... Get a doctor's excuse.

Many keep going to bed later and later, to the point they don't have enough sleep to function, and are sluggish to wake up.

Christopher M.
Christopher M.4 years ago

My office is noisy and I have Asperger. A noisy colleague (I think of her as MC Yammer) drives me up the wall.

MEGAN N.4 years ago

@ Janice
lol I understand now and I can clear it up for you too. Every single reply that anyone makes after you post yours will be sent to your email as long as you have checked the get comment replies box. None of them are probably aimed at you (unless it addresses you directly by name as you have done). I understand your desire to defend yourself, I get that way too but usually someone has attacked me directly for not being a fanatic and trying to "talk sense"... the venom on this site sometimes makes my head spin. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Janice M.
Janice Ma4 years ago

To Megan N,
The reason I thought you addressed it to me was because it popped up in my email. Maybe this place sends everybody's comments to everybody else. I know that one popped up one day in my email that was specifically addressed to someone else. So it looks like that's what happened. Sorry for misjudging you and thinking you were talking to me. I wonder how many of the umpteen others that I answered weren't really to me at all? Anyone have any comments on that? Hmm, I bet I answered a lot of them that weren't really to me at all. I try to be polite and answer everyone and it takes a heck of a lot of time--and now if they weren't even TO me? Very irritating!

MEGAN N.4 years ago

@ Janice - I really have no idea at all why in the world you would think I was talking about you as I did not mention you or any of your post's, your name or anything you have said at all in my little message. In fact I did not elude to them nor had I even specifically noted the author of any of the posts when I read them. Nor was my post next to one of yours and I specifically said that my post was to the people who WERE attacking the girl not those defending her as you were doing. So I really have no idea why you felt the need to lash out at me. I just thought that the mother of this boy was entitled to a little compassion. And that maybe some people should be reminded of the saying "judge not lest ye be judged" or "don't throw stones in glass houses" or better yet "walk a mile in their shoes before you judge someone".

Janice M.
Janice Ma4 years ago

To Marthe E,
It can be difficult getting normal kids up and around on time. Any kind of mentally challenged child can be horribly difficult to get to do anything on time. Read up on what life is like with autistic children.