Published May 30, 2012
A Louisiana group has raised more than $70,000 for a 17-year-old Texas honor student jailed for missing too much school because she worked two jobs to support her siblings.
Diane Tran, an 11th-grade honor student at Willis High School near Houston, was sent to jail for 24 hours last week by Judge Lanny Moriarty and ordered to pay a $100 fine for excessive truancy.
It's unclear how many days Tran missed, but state law reportedly permits only 10 absences in a six-month period.
Tran, who works full-time at a dry-cleaning business and part-time for a wedding planner, has been supporting her brother and sister since her parents separated and her mother moved away.
Houston Councilman Al Hoang and others have roundly criticized the judge, saying he should have used some discretion in the honor student's case.
"I’m going to ask the judge to expunge the record," Hoang told FoxNews.com. "The truancy laws should be applied case by case, and in this case it should not be applied. I believe Judge Moriarty should have used his discretionary power to excuse her from this matter."
Since the girl's story went viral, hundreds of people have rallied to raise money for the teen, including one group, Louisiana Children's Education Alliance, which said Wednesday it had raised more than $70,000 for Tran.
The group, which created a website called HelpDianeTran.com, has received donations from 47 states and 13 foreign countries for the girl.
"I think this story of a student who's obviously working so hard and is being taken advantage of by the system just touches your heart strings and it affects a lot of people," the group's president, Charlie Davis, said Wednesday in an interview with Fox News.
"I think Diane unfortunately is at the center of two failed systems in America -- our public education system and our judicial system," he said.
Davis said he hopes Tran uses the money for her family and for her college education. "The rest of the world is on her side," he said.
Tran, who is considered an adult under Texas state law, was issued a summons on May 23 for truancy after she missed classes. She was arrested in open court and ordered to spend 24 hours at the Montgomery County Jail for truancy, which is considered a misdemeanor. The ruling came after the teenager was issued a warning by a judge last month about her absences.
Judge Moriarty told KHOU 11 News that he intended to make an example of Tran by placing her in jail.
"If you let one run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them? Let them go, too?" Moriarty told the station.
Houston defense attorney Ned Barnett, however, called the ruling shocking and said the girl likely spent the night surrounded by "every type of criminal that exists."
"It doesn’t take much discretion to have sympathy for Miss Tran," Barnett said. "To lock her up is just outrageous."
FoxNews.com's Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.