Story Archive

Classical Zero Tolerance

Avery Gagliano, 13, of Washington, D.C., is a world-renowned piano prodigy who has played by invitation in Germany, Hong Kong, Connecticut, and dozens of other places. That doesn’t impress Alice Deal Middle School officials, however: to do such performances, she had to miss more than 10 days of school, which makes her a truant. And they don’t just say that: they have accused her of truancy in writing, and their letters threatened her parents with legal action, even though her parents kept Avery on a rigorous independent study school curriculum. “DCPS is unable to excuse Avery’s absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.,” wrote Jemea Goso, an “attendance specialist” with D.C. Public School’s “Office of Youth Engagement”. The girl’s parents say they were “bombarded” by automated phone calls and letters. After more than a year of trying to convince school officials, her parents gave up: “We decided to home-school her because of all the issues,” her father said. “Avery has been in public school since kindergarten. She’s a great success story for the schools.” When the Washington Post picked up on Avery’s story, D.C.’s Public School Chancellor said the article was “inaccurate and misleading” — despite the pile of written proof. She blamed the parents for not explaining things well enough, even though they tried for over a year. “As we continue to work to make improvements in enforcing truancy protocols,” Chancellor Kaya Henderson said, “the lesson here is the need for better and more timely communication.” (RC/Washington Post) ...The good news is, the head school chief understands there’s a lesson to be learned. The bad news is, she doesn’t understand who needs to learn it.
Original Publication Date: 28 September 2014
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 21.

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