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Attempts to get a couple extra days off from school could land some middle and high school students with felonies on their records and possible jail time.
Taylorsville Police Chief Toby Lewis announced last week that his department has seen an increase in instances where Spencer County Middle and Spencer County High School students are forging doctors’ notes.
When students get a legitimate doctor’s note, some are picking up an extra and using it at a later date, while others are whiting out the doctor’s original date to give themselves a few extra days off from school, Lewis said.
What students may not know is that by doing either of the above, they are committing second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, which is a Class D felony and could carry a punishment of one to five years in jail.
“When you have a legitimate note, that’s OK, present it,” Lewis said. “But do not present a forged note. We will prosecute.”
Lewis said his department is currently investigating several instances of forged notes. Fewer than a dozen students are being investigated, but some of those students have presented 10 to 12 notes, each of which would constitute a separate felony charge.
“It’s somewhat alarming,” Lewis said. “I don’t think they understand the potential in reference to the charges involved.”
Lewis emphasized that his department is working closely with the school district to curb the number of forged notes that are presented.
In fact, the following message is currently posted on the district’s website at http://publicschools.spencercounty.ky.gov/ :
“As a result of recent conversations with Chief Toby Lewis with the Taylorsville Police Department, Chief Lewis has reported numerous incidents where doctor excuses are being fraudulently signed and turned into schools for excused absences. Any doctor excuses that are found to be fraudulent will be reported to Chief Lewis and he will prosecute for criminal possession of a forged instrument, which is a felony.”
Spencer County Schools’ Director of Pupil Personnel Bob Hafendorfer said he didn’t want to blow the issue out of proportion, but said it is a problem.
“Even if it were two or three times, it’s unfortunate,” Hafendorfer said.
Hafendorfer said he knows many families are experiencing hard times.
“I look at truancy as a symptom of something else going on,” Hafendorfer said. “We would rather work with a family or a particular student before they resort to this, which is a crime.”
Hafendorfer said school administrators and his office are more than willing to work with students who have family issues or chronic illnesses to see that they are allowed an appropriate amount of absences.
Students are allowed five written notes from parents per year, Hafendorfer said, but doctors’ excuses are not limited.
“I can work with a physician to allow more parent notes,” in the cases of heart conditions, allergies, breathing treatments, psychological matters, etc., Hafendorfer said.
Families are urged to contact Hafendorfer, whose office is at Hillview Academy, at 477-1530 any time they have a health issue, or at the beginning of the school year to discuss chronic problems.
“Contact me, I will be the liaison to the school system,” he said.
Chief Lewis said Monday that it doesn’t appear the current cases are related.
“They’re not related, as in the student’s don’t know each other,” he said. “There are just a lot of people doing it.”
Lewis also posted a message regarding the issue on the police department’s Facebook page last Wednesday.
“If these notes are detected, felony charges for criminal possession of a forged instrument are being placed on those presenting the notes,” the post reads. “We are posting this hoping to curb this activity before it gets worse.”
Lewis went on to ask parents for their help.
“We are asking you to speak to your children in regards to this to prevent more of our students from getting into trouble.”
Lewis said he wanted to spread the word so that students don’t make one mistake that could affect their futures in big way.
Even students who only forge one note run the risk of having a felony on their record and knocking themselves out of scholarships for college, Lewis said.
“Our main goal is to get children in school and [for them] to quit presenting forged documents.”