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In re A.N.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

May 2, 2017

In re A.N., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
A.N., Defendant and Appellant.

         Superior Court County No. 2015040294 of Ventura William R. Redmond, Commissioner

          Stephen P. Lipson, Public Defender, Michael C. McMahon, Chief Deputy Public Defender, William Quest, Senior Deputy Public Defender, for Defendant and Appellant.

          California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., Franchesca S. Verdin, Monica De La Hoya and Cynthia L. Rice, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

          Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Scott A. Taryle, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Tannaz Kouhpainezhad, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          TANGEMAN, J.

         A.N. refused to go to school. She demonstrated her unwavering commitment to avoiding an education when she earned more than 25 unexcused absences during the first half of the academic year. As required, school officials made a “conscientious effort” to meet with A.N. and her parents to address her absenteeism. (Ed. Code, § 48262.)[1] They then referred her case to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB). (§ 48263.) But A.N.'s behavior never changed. School officials thus turned to the juvenile court in their continuing effort to compel A.N.'s attendance. She objects, contending that the juvenile court lacks jurisdiction because school officials failed to sequence their disciplinary and counseling resources in conformity with law. We disagree.

         School officials did everything they could and should do to educate-not abandon-A.N., and they did so in conformity with the law. The juvenile court properly determined that “available public and private services [were] insufficient or inappropriate to correct [A.N.'s] habitual truancy... or to correct [her] persistent or habitual refusal to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of school authorities.” (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 601, subd. (b).) We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         A.N.'s high school principal sent her parents a notice of truancy after she accumulated four unexcused absences during the first month of the school year. One week later, the principal sent a second notice that documents five more unexcused absences. Her principal later sent a third truancy notice. This notice states that A.N. accrued 10 more absences and would be classified as a habitual truant. It also states that a referral may be made to the SARB. The SARB meeting was held the following month. A.N. accumulated six more unexcused absences before the SARB meeting, and another after it.

         Two weeks before the SARB meeting, the district attorney filed a petition in juvenile court to have A.N. declared a habitual truant under section 48262. The court held a hearing on the petition four months later. The court sustained the petition, deemed A.N. a habitual truant, and ordered her to pay a $50 fine.

         DISCUSSION

         A.N. contends that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to hear the petition because school officials and the district attorney did not adhere to the requirements set forth in section 48264.5. We disagree.

         A student who accrues three or more unexcused absences during the school year shall be reported truant to the school's attendance supervisor. (§ 48260, subd. (a).) The school shall also notify the student's parents of the truancy. (§ 48260.5.) If the student earns another unexcused absence, he or she shall again be reported truant to the attendance supervisor. (§ 48261.) A student reported truant a third time will be deemed a habitual truant and may be referred to, and required to meet with, the SARB. (§§ 48262, 48263, 48264.5, subd. (c).) If the student subsequently fails to comply with the SARB's directives, or is truant a fourth time (i.e., accrues six or more unexcused absences), he or she falls within the juvenile court's jurisdiction. (§ 48264.5, subd. (d); Welf. & Inst. Code, § 601, subd. (b).)

         The juvenile court properly exercised jurisdiction here. The first notice of truancy lists four of A.N.'s unexcused absences-one more than required under section 48260. The second notice lists an additional five-four more than required under section 48261. The third lists an additional 10-nine more than required under section 48262. A.N. accumulated seven more unexcused absences after that. Twenty-six unexcused absences during the first half of the school year exceeds the four-truancy ...


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