Missouri mom charged with ‘educational neglect’ after son misses too much school

ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- A Missouri mother now faces legal action for all the days of school her son has reportedly missed.

Prosecutors have charged the woman, Jessica Pence-Nicholson, with educational neglect, according to KTVI.

Court documents show her 9-year-old son had a pattern of poor attendance – only showing up to Stephen Blackhurst Elementary School about 50 percent of the time between August and December of 2017.

"They have missed a lot, yes," Pence-Nicholson admitted. "I don't know how to explain a lot but quite a bit."

The charges are rare, according to KTVI, and Pence-Nicholson said she's "shocked."

Officials say the boy's absence is part of a larger pattern dating back to kindergarten, and the boy's two siblings have also missed a large number of school days. Pence-Nicholson explained those absences by citing deaths in the family, illness and a dangerous situation with her ex-husband which has caused them anxiety.

"I wish it was not like this for their lives, I wish it was better," she told KTVI.

The City of St. Charles School District says school officials are required to report suspected cases of educational neglect to the state's child abuse and neglect hotline, at which point the Missouri Department of Social Services investigates.

“Regular attendance is essential to a child's success in school and our staff work diligently to monitor student attendance and follow state law.

“We also do our very best to work with families to address any hardships that may be preventing regular student attendance.

“It is only after all interventions fail that a hotline call is initiated."

The Missouri Department of Social Services placed the family on supervised probation but dropped the case in May. The criminal charges were filed after a school resource officer with the St. Charles Police Department brought the investigation to prosecutors.