May 28, 2012— -- The Texas judge who jailed an 11th-grade honor student for missing too much school unfairly punished the teen who works two jobs to support her siblings, one of her employers says.
"I can understand if a child is staying out of school, running around, a bad kid, getting into trouble, taking drugs," Mary Elliot, Diane Tran's boss at her weekend job, told ABC News this weekend. "I can understand why he would slap them into jail for 24 hours. But Diane doesn't do that. All she does is work and go to school."
Tran, 17, had already been warned not to miss any more time at her Houston-area school, but when Judge Lanny Moriarty heard she'd skipped again, he sent her to jail for 24 hours Wednesday, according to KHOU 11 News.
It's unclear how many days she missed but state law allows for only 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period.
In addition to working at Elliot's wedding-planning venue, Tran works full-time at a dry cleaners. She has been supporting an older brother and a younger sister since her parents separated and her mother relocated out of state, Elliot said. Her father often works too late to come home, so she sometimes lives with Elliot's daughter.
"She's a straight-A student," Elliot said. "She keeps her grades up, but sometimes she oversleeps, because she's been working."
Tran, who was working at Elliot's venue when Elliot spoke to ABCNews.com, declined to comment.
Tran's classmate Devon Hill told the New York Daily News that Tran takes Advanced Placement classes, goes "from job to job" and stays up until 7 a.m. some nights.
When those close to Tran suggested she switch to home schooling, Tran refused because she wanted to be named among the top-10 students in her class just like her brother, Elliot said.
Judge Moriarty told KHOU 11 News that he intended to make an example of Tran.
"If you let one run loose, what are you going to do with the rest of them? Let them go, too?" Moriarty asked the TV station.
Willis High School posts the state truancy law on its website.
"Texas law is clear that children must attend school," the site says before explaining that students can only have 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period before the school files a complaint in court.