THE DISTRICT OF CALAMITY

The Washington, D.C., school system last year declared Avery Gagliano, 13, a habitual truant whose parents somehow require special training to ensure her attendance. The eighth-grader was a straight-A student at Alice Deal Middle School, and a piano prodigy selected for prestigious world exhibitions — which caused her to exceed the maximum 10 “unexcused” absences, triggering the assignment of a truancy officer and a series of relentless threats against the parents (which provoked them to withdraw Avery to home-school her). In October, following a Washington Post account, D.C.’s governing council honored Avery in a public ceremony, and D.C. schools chancellor began begging the Gaglianos to bring Avery (now with suddenly “excused” absences) back to school.

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