Mother charged with neglect after child misses school

MCCORDSVILLE — A McCordsville mother faces felony neglect charges after her son missed school or came to class late 25 times, documents state.

Desier Gootee, 22, 6268 W. Wellington Way, Apt. C, McCordsville, was charged late last week with a Level 6 felony count of neglect of a dependent.

She pleaded not guilty in Hancock County Superior Court 2 and was released from the Hancock County Jail on a $600 bond, records show.

A subsection of the Indiana neglect statue allows prosecutors to hold parents criminally responsible if they fail to provide their children with education. They can be charged with neglect, a Level 6 felony, if their child misses school an excessive amount with no excuse, officials said.

School officials have recorded times Gootee’s 5-year-old son has been absent from school or dropped off late since school began this year, according to charging documents. The school had already sought help from the Indiana Department of Child Services before contacting law enforcement, court records state.

Educational neglect charges are rare in Hancock County; Prosecutor Brent Eaton announced early in his term he wants to see stricter enforcement.

This year, five parents including Gootee have faced charges; for the past five years, the county has seen an average of one case filed a year.

Prosecutors rely on their relationships with school officials to identify parents who fail to uphold their responsibility to educate their children.

A counselor at Gootee’s son’s school tipped off police to the situation, adding the boy sometimes comes to school hungry and wearing disheveled clothing, documents state.

Police were called to the child’s school in November after Gootee failed to pick her child up from the bus stop after school, and school officials were unable to reach the mother, charging documents state.

It took police nearly two hours to reach Gootee, who said she had overslept through three alarms she set to pick up her son, according to records.

She told police she slept through her alarm because she had been working a lot, documents state. She said she did not intentionally forget the child, and she’s a good mother, documents state.

She returns to court in February.

The charge Gootee faces carries a penalty range of six months to two and a half years and up to $10,000 in fines.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.