Outpouring of support greeted Diane Tran after she gave an emotional interview to an CBS affiliate in her hometown of Willis, Texas. Tran was jailed for 24 hours and fined $100 for truancy by Montgomery County Judge Lanny Moriarty even though, as she explained during her hearing, she was skipping school mostly from exhaustion of holding down two jobs in order to support her siblings after her parents divorced and left town.
Tran, who is also an honor student and is taking several AP classes, appeared before Judge Moriarty on one previous occasion, about one month ago, when he warned her that if she didn't bring down the number of absences, he'd impose the harshest sentence possible. Only several weeks later, the Judge made good on his promise and ordered her arrest during the hearing. He explained that regardless of Tran's individual circumstances, he felt compelled to send a message to students who are regularly skipping school.
"If you let one [truant student] run loose, what are you gonna' do with the rest of 'em? Let them go too? A little stay in the jail for one night is not a death sentence."
But Tran is hardly like a typical student likely to face a judge over excessive truancy. As she explained in her interview, she balances her school work with the employment she must maintain to support an older brother attending college Texas A&M and a younger sister who lives with relatives in the Houston area. Tran, lives with the family of one of her employers, who own the local wedding venue Waverly Manor.
Tran said her parents divorced "out of the blue" and both moved away, leaving her in Willis. Her mother lives in Georgia, she said.
"I always thought our family was happy," the teen said tearfully.
In addition to the part-time work she performs at the Vineyard at Waverly Manor, she also has a full-time job at a dry-cleaner in town.
After an interview with Tran aired on KHOU the viewer response has been almost overwhelmingly supportive of her and critical of Judge Moriarty. The family where she's staying have set up a charitable fund for Tran where interested parties can donate to help defray her upcoming college expenses. Tran said that until the incident, she had hopes to becoming a doctor some day, but now she is worried that the sentence will mar her criminal and academic record and hamper her chances of getting into a good university and medical school.
Many people expressed their outrage on Facebook.
"Don't you feel safer now that an honors student has been thrown in jail? This is ridiculous," wrote Bill Palmer.
Some comments have been critical of Tran's parents and now her friends say she feels she has shamed her parents.