(Leonna Heuring, Staff)
"Our main goal is to get these youths in school. However, to achieve this goal, we will hold any parent and/or student accountable for this criminal act," said Sgt. Jim McMillen, public information officer for Sikeston Public Safety. "We want everyone to understand this isn't just an immoral act, but it is a criminal one."
In Missouri, the crime of forgery is a class C felony, which carries a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to seven years in prison.
"There will be no tolerance for this criminal act," McMillen said. "If you are found to be passing a counterfeit document, you will be prosecuted."
Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd agreed.
"Kids need to be at school," Boyd said. "We don't need anymore monkey business."
McMillen said the issue arose last spring when Sikeston R-6 Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller contacted DPS after discovering a few students and parents had passed fake doctor's excuses at their schools. Some of the R-6 attendance secretaries received these "doctor excuses" after the student was said to have been sick or seeing a doctor the day before, McMillen said.
"The number of absences from some of these students caused the administration to take a closer look at these excuses. After trying to verify their validity, they found a number of these doctor's excuses to be fake or counterfeit.
It became obvious that the crime of forgery was committed. DPS officials met with Borgsmiller, Boyd, Scott County Chief Juvenile Officer Bill Lawson and the Missouri Children's Division and began working collectively to seek charges of forgery on these offenders and any future offenders, McMillen said.
Several arrests were made stemming from forged excuses being passed at elementary schools and up through high school. The majority of arrests were of parents who passed the excuses themselves, McMillen said.
Previously, these types of offenders would "white out" a date and write in a new one on an old excuse. Then they would then photocopy the altered excuse to give the appearance of authenticity.
"Now we are seeing people generating a fake doctor's excuse with help from the Internet," McMillen said.
Some of these offenders used images from legitimate medical facilities and typed their own doctor's excuse with the image attached. They would then falsify an actual or fictitious doctor's signature, and a color printer was often added to aid in the appearance of authenticity, McMillen said.
Sikeston Fifth and Sixth Grade Principal Chuck Mayes said building staff as well as those districtwide are more diligent when accepting doctor's notes this school year.
"To be honest, anytime someone gets a high number of excused absences, we verify them," Mayes said. "It's not that we don't trust the parents, but we have to verify to be certain."
School administrative assistants have made it part of their daily routine to verify student's absences.
"Any doctor's excuse we receive, we have to write down who handed it to us, what time they gave it to us and the name of the person in our office who took it from them," said Lori Herring, an administrative assistant at the Sikeston Fifth and Sixth Grade Center. "Then we check over the document very closely."
For the complete article and more stories from the Standard Democrat, click here to log on to the electronic edition.