More parents charged under Cape Girardeau schools' tougher attendance policy

Friday, February 4, 2011

The first parent charged under Cape Girardeau School District's beefed-up attendance policy is set to be sentenced later this month, and three more parents face charges for failing to get their children to school.

Susan G. Hager, 44, 1413 William St., pleaded guilty this week to educational neglect, or violating the compulsory school attendance law. Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28, according to Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.

Hager faces a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail, a $300 fine and the possibility of probation of up to two years on the misdemeanor charge.

School records show Hager's 16-year-old son, Brandon W. Hager, had 15 unexcused absences between Aug. 20 and Oct. 26, according to the probable-cause statement filed by the prosecuting attorney's office. Though Susan Hager received several warning letters from the school and a hand-delivered letter from the prosecuting attorney's office warning of pending prosecution, she "still failed to make sure the child attends school," according to the court document.

Brandon Hager in December told the Southeast Missourian he had been suspended from the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center.

Susan Hager told the judge in the case that she intends to homeschool her son, Swingle said.

"She will have to keep meticulous records of what she is teaching the child," he said. "When you homeschool, that doesn't mean you get to keep your child out of school and that's it."

The tougher attendance policy, rolled out last semester, makes 10 unexcused absences an actionable offense.

Also charged is Laura Hogeland, 35, 2825 Whitener St., C4. Hogeland's daughter, who attends Cape Girardeau Central Junior High School, had 18 unexcused absences through Jan. 4., according to her probable-cause statement. Hogeland received a hand-delivered warning letter Nov. 8 advising her that her daughter had 10 unexcused absences and that the mother faced prosecution for educational neglect. Her arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 17.

Nicole L. Alvarez, 34, 319 N. Louisiana Ave., was charged last month after her son, also a student at Cape Girardeau Central Junior High School, had 17 unexcused absences. Court documents show he had seven more unexcused absences after Nov. 30, when a prosecuting attorney investigator delivered Alvarez the warning that prosecution was imminent. Alvarez is expected to appear in court 9 a.m. Feb. 24.

Daniel Pieper, 43, 408 S. Hanover St., is the latest to be charged under the compulsory school attendance law. Pieper's son, a student at Cape Girardeau Central Middle School, had 11 unexcused absences through Jan. 26, according to court documents. He has had one unexcused absence since Jan. 19, when Pieper received the warning letter.

Swingle said the charges should have a deterrent effect.

"And our investigator is going around delivering letters to others letting them know they will be charged, so these [parents being prosecuted] are by no means the only ones in peril of being charged," Swingle said.

Carla Fee, principal at the Cape Girardeau Alternative Education Center, said the tougher policy is making a tremendous difference in attendance, especially in the district's elementary schools.

The Southeast Missourian is seeking first-semester attendance information from the school district.

Fee said the schools are trying to remain in contact with parents of students with attendance problems, using every resource available to "help families so they don't get to that 10-day threshold."

"We're getting our message out to the community, to businesses, to help us promote the importance of education and the importance of being there every day," she said.


Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau MO

1900 Thilenius St., Cape Girardeau, MO

1920 Whitener St. Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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