A New York honeymoon trip could land Janine and Shane Scott with a criminal record after they took their daughter out of school for five days. Jani
A New York honeymoon trip could land Janine and Shane Scott with a criminal record after they took their daughter out of school for five days.
Janine and Shane Scott took seven-year-old Elissa on the dream holiday to New York believing head Kerry Coe would grant the time off on the grounds of exceptional circumstances.
But they returned to £60 fixed penalty notices which they have decided to fight on principle.
They could each be fined up to £2,500 and jailed for three months over the five-day visit.
Janine, 28, said: “This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I fully support regular attendance but it was our honeymoon.”
The couple are due before Teesside magistrates after pleading not guilty to the strict liability offence.
Janine said the £3,000 trip paid for by wedding guests was “meaningful” and educational, with trips to the 9/11 memorial, Broadway, the National History Museum and Wall Street.
She said: “The headteacher told us that she only gives permission in exceptional circumstances, and she felt this still did not meet that.
“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.
“She has only ever been off through illness, but you have to have evidence of that, so if you don’t have a GP note that does not count as authorised either.
“Sometimes if she was given an antibiotic the school would photocopy the label and accept that.”
Elissa’s attendance record at St John’s Church of England Primary School in Stockton-on-Tees was 92.5% last year, with no absence since then.
Janine claimed the school’s policy on “medical evidence of all illnesses” puts pressure on parents to send children to school when they are poorly or see a GP for everyday ailments.
Janine is so upset that she has given up her job as a mental health support worker to become a full-time mum to Elissa, now eight, and one-year-old brother Roman.
It means they can take holidays to fit in with Shane’s £19,000-a-year job as a Stagecoach bus driver.
His grandparents Alan and Norma looked after Roman during the trip in June but they did not feel it was fair to ask them to care for Elissa as it would mean taking her to and from school.
Shane, 27, said: “It is absolutely scandalous. Elissa goes to Bella Italia, the park and local supermarket on school trips.
“I know they need a deterrent for regular absences, but that is not the case here. It is a punishment, and a disgrace.”
Headteacher Ms Coe said: “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.”