Couple face $3,200 in fines and three-month prison term for taking daughter out of school for their honeymoon
Janine and Shane Scott took their daughter along for their five-day, £3,000 trip to the Big Apple after taking her out of school and now face hefty fines and jail-time.
A newlywed couple faces the prospect of going to prison after they decided to take their seven-year-old daughter on their honeymoon to New York City while she was supposed to be in school and then subsequently refused to pay the £60 ($77) fine.
According to the Mirror, Janine and Shane Scott took daughter Elissa on their dream holiday to New York in the belief that Kerry Coe, the headteacher at the St. John's Church of England Primary School where she attends, would grant the time off on grounds of exceptional circumstances.
However, upon their return, they were greeted with a £60 fixed penalty notices, which they promptly returned without paying because they wanted to fight it on principle. Now, both Janine and Scott are due before Teeside magistrates and could each be fined £2,500 ($3,216) or be jailed for three months over their five-day, £3,000 trip to the Big Apple.
The mother argued her case and claimed the trip was meaningful and educational and included visits to the 9/11 memorial, Broadway, the National History Museum, and Wall Street. "This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I fully support regular attendance but it was our honeymoon," she said.
"The headteacher told us that she only gives permission in exceptional circumstances, and she felt this still did not meet that," she continued. "If Elissa had autism, then she could take a quieter period of time out of school holidays. She could go if she was a foster child and recently changed homes, had suffered trauma or a family bereavement, or for a religious holiday."
Elissa had a 92.5% attendance record last year but because of the school's policy on "medical evidence of all illnesses," Janine said there was a pressure on parents to send their children to school even if they are not feeling too well. She said she quit her job as a mental health worker so she could care for Elissa and her one-year-old brother Roman full-time.
While Roman was left with his grandparents during the trip, Janine said she felt it would be unfair to also put Elissa in their care as it would mean they would have to take over taking her to and from school as well. Weighing in on the incident, Shane, a Stagecoach bus driver, said it was "absolutely scandalous" and called their fines a "disgrace."
Speaking about the incident, Coe was quoted defending the school's stance. "The parents booked a holiday in term time without any prior discussion with the school. We were left with no choice but to request that a fixed penalty notice be issued," she said.
The parents will plead not guilty before the magistrates, but because taking a child out of school if a strict liability offense — which means that the defendant is responsible for their offense even in the absence of intent — neither has a defense.