Changes will affect how juvenile courts interact with schools

June 29, 2020
Changes to state law and a recent California Supreme Court decision will affect how schools and juvenile court interact, according to two new recent news briefs from Lozano Smith attorneys at law. Last fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1354, which creates new legal requirements for a county office of education and certain charter schools operating juvenile court schools. Notably, AB 1354 reaffirms the Legislature’s intent for greater collaboration between county offices of education, county probation departments, and Local Educational Agencies regarding students transitioning in and out of juvenile court schools. Many county offices of education provide educational services to students in court schools while county probation departments have responsibility for all other aspects of the student’s incarceration. Consequently, most county offices of education have existing agreements with counties regarding these transitions, which need to be updated to meet the requirements of this new law. AB 1354 now requires, as part of a student’s exit from court school, that the county office of education oversee and coordinate:
  • A transfer of the student’s records to the relevant LEA within 72 hours of the student’s release from the juvenile facility. (These records include the student’s IEP/Section 504 Plan);
  • Provision of information about postsecondary academic and vocational opportunities, including college financial aid programs, to the student; and,
  • Immediate enrollment in an appropriate public school in the student’s community, including acceptance of course credits for coursework completed at the court school and placement in appropriate courses.
AB 1354 also clarifies the requirements for court school students to have a developed individualized transition plan if detained for more than 20 consecutive school days. This plan must be designed in collaboration with county probation departments, as needed, to address the student’s academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and career needs and, prior to the student’s release, identify with and establish programs, services, and individuals to support a student’s successful transition out of court school. With many juvenile court schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, county offices operating court schools may want to take this time to evaluate how the program enrolls students in and transitions students out of the court school. Also, county offices of education should review procedures with county probation departments regarding the development and sharing of individualized learning plans, IEPs, Section 504 Plans, and individualized transition plans. California Supreme Court decides on case involving SARB On May 4, 2020, the California Supreme Court clarified a juvenile court’s jurisdiction over a minor in a formal wardship proceeding to declare the minor a habitual truant. The court determined that a juvenile court may exercise jurisdiction in a formal wardship proceeding on the basis of the minor having “four or more truancies within one school year” if a fourth truancy has been issued to the attendance supervisor or the superintendent of the school district, even if the minor has not been previously referred to a school attendance review board or similar truancy mediation program.  The California Supreme Court considered whether the use of a SARB or a similar truancy mediation program, or the issuance of a fourth truancy report to the student and his or her parent or guardian, is a prerequisite to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction in a formal wardship proceeding on the basis of a student having “four or more truancies within one school year.”

County offices operating court schools may want to take this time to evaluate how the program enrolls students in and transitions students out of the court school.
The court determined that the use of a SARB or similar truancy mediation program is not a prerequisite to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. Although the Education Code provides school officials the discretion to initially refer habitual truants to SARBs or similar truancy mediation programs, such referrals may be in lieu of or in addition to issuing of a notice to appear in juvenile court. The court acknowledged that referring truants directly to the juvenile court system prior to the conclusion of a truancy mediation program could undermine the purpose of SARBs. Nevertheless, the court concluded that current law does not require that truancy mediation precede juvenile court jurisdiction, and stated that any policy tension between the two attendance-improvement paths is matter for the Legislature to resolve. The court also concluded the issuance of a fourth truancy report to the student and his or her parent or guardian is not a prerequisite to the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. Rather, the fourth truancy “report” was more broadly interpreted, and is satisfied if a “report” is issued to the attendance supervisor or the superintendent of the school district, including by way of an automated report sent by a school’s computerized attendance tracking system. In other words, the fourth truancy report, though required, does not need to be a parental notice. This California Supreme Court’s decision clarifies that school districts are not required to utilize SARB or similar truancy mediation program prior to a juvenile court exercising jurisdiction over a minor on the basis of truancy. However, the decision highlights the potential tension between this grant of juvenile court jurisdiction and the rehabilitative and diversionary purposes of SARBs or similar programs to address the underlying sources of attendance problems. The court suggests that the Legislature may wish to revisit what services and interventions are required before a juvenile court can exercise jurisdiction over a minor. 

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