Okay, someone explain to me why school is compulsory. Pay special attention to grades after 10th, which is about when you know enough (or should) to be able to hold down a basic job and have the necessary skills for survival. Besides the fact that forcing children to school who actively do not wish to attend actually hurts those who do wish to attend, and doesn't help the ones who don't, we open the stage for stories like this.
Reading the story, I have three thoughts.
The first is this: Where is Dad? The story says "her parents separated and her mother moved away." Okay, so that's one parent down- but where's Dad? Single parent homes are far from ideal, but people make them work all the time. That without having to have one of the kids work two jobs (was Dad working two jobs?) and skip school to do so. So first and foremost: this is a failure of the parents who should be the ones made to answer for the girl's truancy.
Second, the rules are the rules. Sometimes that sucks. Sometimes that means you have to choose the lesser of evils, or throw yourself on the mercy of strangers for assistance. Now this family is having to do that anyway, so what did they gain? So, yes, I have sympathy here- her choices sucked, but she took the one she felt was least bad (and who am I to say she was wrong?). Sympathy notwithstanding, she is responsible for her choice, and her choice led to a 24 hour imprisonment and a $100.00 fine. That sucks, but we can't say it isn't the law.
Third, shame on those who are trying to say this was somehow unjustified. The young woman had been previously warned about missing any more school. Either we live with the rule of law or we don't; we don't get to suspend it just because someone or something tugs on our heartstrings. What they are asking for, whether they realize it or not, is not mercy from the court, but the implementation of a capricious, even evil, judicial scheme under which those engaging in approved activities are allowed to break the law, while those who are not engaging in approved activities suffer the penalties of the law. It creates a two (or more) tiered justice system which favors one class of person over another. No matter how noble you believe your intent, this is not an appropriate request.
Either we have the rule of law- and it applies even when inconvenient, or we live subject to a capricious system under which we are incapable of knowing the law from one day to the next.
All of those things considered, I believe that "Justice" was not done here. I certainly believe the Judge acted within his authority. I believe that he acted rightly according to the law. I just happen to think the law is wrong. Ms. Tran is 17 years old. She's obviously employable and able to take care of herself, as she's proven by holding down two jobs and supporting her two younger siblings. But what else can the Educational System do when we make the State responsible for Education? Once Education became a "Right" it was inevitable that it would also become an obligation. That is the simple truth of things- from education to health insurance. If not everyone "benefits" (that is: actually goes to school) then the system is seen as failing. But if left to their own devices, there are many people who would choose not to attend school for very rational reasons.
At some point we have to understand that, as the quote goes, "Sometimes Government is a necessary evil, but it is always evil." We open up so many opportunities for mischief by further enabling the State to have control over how we rear our children (which includes where, when, and even if they go to school). Is it worth it?
Post Script: Before I get comments about how kids not going to school will just make them dependent on welfare, I submit two things: One, this girl proves that is not always true- I'll go further, I think it would not be any more true than it already is. Two, the kinds of kids who are going to end up on welfare usually will do so even if you force them to go to school until they're 18- and they certainly won't have been Honor Students that whole time. If your problem is with the welfare state, fix that.