Hydrocephalus Mom Fights to Change Pennsylvania Truancy Law

Ashley Mantheiy, who has two sons with hydrocephalus, has worked with State politicians to introduce the Student Medical Leave Act of PA 2016

In Pennsylvania to be compliant with attendance laws, a student is allowed three unexcused and 10 excused absences a year. When a child exceeds this number, there can be repercussions for both the child and the family. In certain counties, families have been fined for Truancy. This is what happened to the Mantheiy family of Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. After 34 absences of their youngest son, Ben, who has complex hydrocephalus which imposes daily health challenges, the family received a fine and a notice they may be subject to prosecution.

“Both of my children suffer from Hydrocephalus. They have endured a combined 37 surgeries. My youngest son, Benjamin, has been struggling. He has been going back and forth to Johns Hopkins seeking treatment for his condition,” shared Ashley Mantheiy, mother to Drake and Benjamin. “My son is not truant! He is sick. There is a difference.”

Ashley worked with her state representatives to introduce the Student Medical Leave Act of Pennsylvania 2016 (SMLA of PA). SMLA of PA will protect families of a child with a chronic illness who needs to miss school above the allotted approved absences. Through a waiver that would be completed at the beginning of each school year, the child’s treating doctor would be able to define an acceptable number of absences based on the child’s medical history and current status. By completing the waiver, families would not be fined nor in fear of being prosecuted for truancy.

This legislation is currently included under Pennsylvania HB 1907, put forth by State Representative Kerry Benninghoff, with the support of Governor Tom Wolf and State Representative Stan Saylor.

Ashley has become a champion for families of children living with chronic medical conditions. For children with a chronic illness where their absences are not for extended periods of time qualifying them for the Home and Hospital Instruction, their absences for staying home or being sent home sick or for the myriad of doctor’s appointments, push them over the limit of allowed absences. For many of these children, they are still performing at their level in school, as they are continuing to keep up with their assignments and peers. However, the children are facing emotionally-based stresses as they feel treated unequally and/or they start to bear the guilt of responsibility for their family being in trouble. Many families are put in a position to pull their children out of school all together and home school to avoid the financial, legal, and emotional repercussions of these situations.

“Our kids cannot help that they are sick and children and families are being penalized for something that is out of their control,” stated Ashley. “The contradiction is you can go on an educational trip for 10 days to Hawaii and those days will not count against your allowed 10 day absences. But you can’t need to miss school because of a chronic illness like hydrocephalus or your parents could face prosecution.”

A press conference and rally will be held on Monday, September 26, 2016, to shine light on the issue and to educate the public about the SMLA of PA. The press conference will take place in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg at 10:00 am.

Read more about Ashley and her family: https://www.hydroassoc.org/hydrocephalus-mom-fights-to-change-pennsylvania-truancy-law/

About Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a chronic, life-threatening condition that can only be treated surgically. The predominant treatment is the insertion of a small tube, called a shunt, into the brain to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid. Shunts save lives but frequently malfunction, become infected, or blocked. It is not uncommon for a person with hydrocephalus to have ten or more shunt-related brain surgeries during the course of their lifetime and some individuals have more than 100 surgical procedures. Each surgical procedure brings the risk of unknown long-term cognitive and health effects.

About the Hydrocephalus Association  

Founded in 1983 by the parents of children with hydrocephalus, the Hydrocephalus Association is the nation’s largest and most widely respected organization dedicated to hydrocephalus. More than 60 percent of HA’s funding comes from individual donations, and approximately 35 percent comes from foundation and corporate grants. The Hydrocephalus Association’s mission is to promote a cure for hydrocephalus and improve the lives of those affected by the condition. For more information, visit the Hydrocephalus Association website at www.hydroassoc.org or call (888) 598-3789.