13-Year-Old Piano Prodigy Forced To Be Home-Schooled Because Truancy Policies

| by Lisa Fogarty

Avery Gagliano is a 13-year-old piano prodigy from Washington D.C. who was handpicked by the Lang Lang Music Foundation to serve as an international music ambassador and tour the world – pretty impressive, most would agree. But the D.C. public school system is making it difficult for her to get ahead because they have reportedly labeled the eighth-grader a truant, reports the Washington Post.

Avery scores straight-A’s at Alice Deal Middle School and her parents say they have worked with teachers to provide independent study plans for the days when she missed school for piano-related traveling. But school officials say they are following the law – which defines an excused absence as “an emergency or other circumstances approved by an educational institution.”

After a child has been absent 10 times, the reason she has missed school is irrelevant – the student is automatically branded a “truant" -- a label that appears on her transcript -- and her family is assigned a truancy officer.

“As I shared during our phone conversation this morning, DCPS is unable to excuse Avery’s absences due to her piano travels, performances, rehearsals, etc.,” Jemea Goso, attendance specialist with the Office of Youth Engagement, wrote in an email to the teen’s parents.

Despite the district’s warning, Avery’s parents, Drew Gagliano and Ying Lam, gave her permission to travel to Munich last year to take part in a prestigious event. They also allowed her to perform – and flawlessly execute -- a Chopin Waltz at a Connecticut competition last March. Her performance earned her the Grand Prix, but when she returned home, she and her family were notified that a truancy officer had been assigned to her case.

Although they aren’t happy about it, Avery’s parents have made the call to have her home-schooled this year.

“We decided to home-school her because of all the issues, because it was like a punch in the gut to have to face the fight again this year,” Gagliano said. “We didn’t want to do this. We want to be a part of the public school system. Avery has been in public school since kindergarten. She’s a great success story for the schools.”

Source: Washington Post

Photo Credit: kkmarais/Flickr, Kate Patterson/For The Washington Post