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Man jailed on truancy charges

January 16, 2010 permalink

In Pennsylvania Keaton Fehrle is jailed and fined $17,500 for truancy committed five years ago when he was in high school. In government accounting providing an education costs $0, not providing and education costs $17,500.



Keaton Fehrle

Posted on Sat, Jan. 16, 2010

Delco man jailed on truancy charges; owes $17,500

By WILLIAM BENDER, Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5255

Listen up, kids. Today's lesson is: Don't skip school.

You could end up paying for it as an adult. And you might even be thrown in jail. Not a juvenile detention center, but a grown-up prison.

Keaton Fehrle, 20, could tell you all about it – whenever he gets out of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, where he has been held since Tuesday on truancy charges he accumulated as a teenager in Delaware County.

Sure, Fehrle's old attendance record at Interboro High School makes Ferris Bueller look like a model student. But should the Essington resident be sitting in a jail cell for ditching class when he was in the 10th grade?

"It's kind of like getting detention – four years later," said his attorney, Michael Malloy. "Should he go back and scrub the blackboards again?"

Fehrle apparently racked up $17,500 worth of fines and court costs after repeatedly missing school in 2005 and 2006. He was busted for the truancy violations this week when his girlfriend was pulled over for speeding. Fehrle was a passenger in the car, and the police officer discovered that there was a warrant out for his arrest.

But Fehrle's mother, Colleen, said yesterday that he was marked "absent" so many days because he had simply dropped out of school and was living in another school district with his cancer-stricken father.

"It should have been me or my husband. Why are they locking him up? He was a child when this happened," Colleen Fehrle said. "Are they just doing it to make an example of him?"

Keaton Fehrle's truancy file in the office of Magisterial District Judge Jack Lippart is as thick as a phonebook. It shows that the judge, before levying the fines, had apparently warned Fehrle to stop skipping school.

But additional charges were recorded when Fehrle left the district, according to his mother, who is distraught that the snafu landed her son in prison.

"It's so confusing. I've never heard of anything like this in my life," she said, adding that when she spoke to him by phone, he said, 'Please get me out of here. This is a living hell.' "

Malloy said he's trying to get an early hearing date set for Fehrle to spring him from jail.

"I've never seen a case like this. I'm at a loss to explain how this happens," he said. "I don't know how they can hold him, quite frankly."

It was unclear yesterday how long Fehrle, who is unemployed, is expected to remain in prison. Colleen Fehrle said the hearing after his arrest Tuesday had concluded before she arrived at the courthouse.

The peculiarity of the case aside, Malloy intends to argue for Fehrle's immediate release. He said his client simply doesn't have the money.

"The rules are relatively clear," he said. "You can't put someone in jail for failure to pay if they don't have the ability to pay."

"Who has $17,000?" Colleen Fehrle asked.

School officials could not be reached yesterday, but prison Superintendent John Reilly Jr. confirmed that Fehrle was being held on a warrant for high school truancy, which is a summary offense.

"That's a bad break," Reilly said.

Source: Philadelphia Daily News