Public schools

D.C. Piano Prodigy Misses 10 Days of Public School, Gets Labeled "Truant." Now She's Homeschooled.

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Avery Gagliano
National Chamber Ensemble

Avery Gagliano was kicking some international piano-playing butt while maintaining straight As at her D.C. public middle school last year.

But traveling abroad for competitions meant she wound up with more than the 10 days of "unexcused" absences allowed by the district on her record. Despite her parents' attempts to provide school administrators with supplementary materials about the educational nature of the trips, the district refused to budge.

In fact, this spring when Gagliano returned (victorious!) from a competition in Connecticut, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) declared her officially truant and assigned an officer to her case. 

"As I shared during our phone conversation this morning, DCPS is unable to excuse Avery's absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.," Jemea Goso, attendance specialist with the school system's Office of Youth Engagement, wrote in an e-mail to Avery's parents, Drew Gagliano and Ying Lam, last year before she left to perform in Munich.

(As a side note: Shared—I do not think it means what you think it means, Ms. Goso.)

Gagliano's parents say they can't afford private schooling—where it tends to be easier to get accommodations for this kind of extracurricular success—but couldn't face another year of wrangling with the district. So for now, the pre-teen is now being (reluctantly) homeschooled.

As The Washington Post notes, arguments about fairness in implementation might carry more weight if truancy laws weren't being tragically disregarded in the exact cases where they are designed to do good:

It would be immoral to enforce a truancy rule for some, but not others, right? But wait, what about Relisha Rudd, the 8-year-old who had been living in D.C.'s family homeless shelter and missed nearly 30 days of school before anyone reported her missing?

For the curious, here's Gagliano tickling the ivories: