Shishmaref Woman Gets Jail Time for Daughter’s Absence from School

A Shishmaref woman was sentenced to 20 days in jail today due to her daughter’s continued absence from school. This is the second truancy case in as many weeks in the Bering Strait School District that has resulted in parents being sentenced to jail time for their child’s poor school attendance.

Frieda Kuzuguk called in from Shismaref via teleconference for the hearing. In an agreement with the court, four of the five charges against her were dropped in exchange for her pleading guilty to one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Court papers allege she aided or encouraged her daughter to miss hundreds of days of school over the last three years.

District Attorney John Earthman said Kuzuguk ignored all efforts by the Shishmaref School and the Bering Straits School District to help her child return to class. He also noted thousands of dollars in unpaid fines. He sought the maximum penalty of 30 days in jail to “send a message to like-minded parents.”

In an affidavit by an Alaska State Trooper, Kuzuguk cited bullying by other students as well as teachers as reasons why her daughter missed so many days of school. Kuzuguk said she had talked to the principal and had her daughter moved to a different class, but she continued to miss school, claiming she was scared of the school environment.

Kuzuguk will report to Nome on Nov. 21 to be remanded and begin serving her sentence.

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Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.

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