Go to School or be Arrested

S was a 17-year-old high school student with a truancy problem. For years she had been refusing to go to school, or if she did go, she would ditch many of her classes. She was also a major behavioral problem for her parents.

On March 16, S’s mother [M] woke S up and told her to get ready for school. S refused to get out of her bed. M could not get S to comply, so M contacted her local police department for help. The Napa PD sent out its diversion officer to S’s home. This officer’s job is to help parents and school officials control minors with behavioral issues and/or severe truancy problems. This officer was very familiar with S. She had been to S’s home many times in the past few years. This time, accompanied by a deputy sheriff, she was able to convince S to get out of bed, get dressed, and allow the officer to drive her to school. However, not before S became hostile and defiant, nor did S stop her hostility and defiance in the patrol car to the school.

The officer drove S and the deputy to S’s school and parked the car directly in front of the school’s offices. There, they were met by the school’s principal. At first, S refused to get out of the car, then after exiting the vehicle she refused to go to class. In fact, continuing her vocal tirade at the officers and now the principal, S turned away and began walking to exit the school. At this point, the deputy sheriff made one last attempt to get S to go to class. Again, S refused, so the deputy arrested her under California Penal Code Section 148. (Section 148 states that a person is in violation of the law if “(1) the defendant willfully resisted, delayed, or obstructed a peace officer, (2) when the officer was engaged in the performance of his or her duties, and (3) the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the other person was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.”)

S was taken to juvenile hall where she remained for two days. At her juvenile court hearing the court sustained the arrest, made S a ward of the court, and sentenced her to 30 days in juvenile hall. Upon her release, she was to wear an ankle bracelet, stay away from gangs, go to school and allow authorities to search all her electronic devices at any time.

S appealed contending that she was not in violation of Section 148, because she did not obstruct the deputy, nor did she prevent him from doing his job.

The Appellate Court agreed with S, contending that S could not be in violation of Section 148, because the deputy was not performing one of his job functions. It was not his job to ensure that she went to class. The California State Legislature specifically prevented minors from being held criminally liable for failing to go to school.

“A minor who is absent from school during school hours in violation of the state’s Compulsory Education Law is subject to arrest under section 48264 of the Education Code. That provision states: ‘The attendance supervisor or his or her designee, a peace officer, a school administrator or his or her designee, or a probation officer may arrest or assume temporary custody, during school hours, of any minor subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education found away from his or her home and who is absent from school without valid excuse within the county, city, or city and county, or school district.’

“A peace officer executing a truancy arrest has no duty to ensure the truant minor actually attends class. Once the minor taken into temporary custody has been delivered to the school from which the minor was absent, by its terms, the arresting officer’s statutory duty under Education Code section 48265 has been fulfilled. “

It was also the duty of the school system and other social service agencies to file a complaint against S under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 601. This section makes minors wards of the court for failing to attend school.

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