Protocol for Truancy Hearings

Truancy proceedings begin with the JCA informing the court that they are ready to proceed (meaning there is a school attendance official standing by) if need be. The court thereafter will swear in the parties and inquire of the respondent whether there is any reason that a truancy order (or a contempt order) should not be signed. If they can voice no reason why there should be no order, the court enters one minus an attorney being assigned (this goes even for contempt hearings if respondent has not requested an attorney in advance). If a parent wishes to dispute the petition for truancy, they do not get to be represented by an attorney (at court expense) even if they cannot afford one. What happens when the case is contested is that the JCA goes first to call their case and present evidence to support the truancy petition (or contempt request). The school official takes the stand and the following questions are asked:

I. Initial Truancy Hearing

  1. The school official's title and position.
  2. Whether that official is in charge of attendance records at the school.
  3. Whether they have brought attendance records with them and, if not, provide them a copy of what they have submitted and ask them to identify it as records they have submitted to the State. Once the school official has identified the attendance record, it gets marked as State Exhibit 1 after which it is shown to the school official again to confirm that there was the record they submitted. From there, it goes to the respondent and their parent to inquire as to whether they dispute the record. If not, the prosecutor moves to have it admitted into evidence and the court allows it.
  4. The State then asks that the school administrator establish the age and grade of the respondent and whether they are under compulsory education.
  5. The school administrator is asked to identify a copy of the petition that they filed.
  6. The school administrator is asked how many days and/or classes the juvenile has received unexcused absences for.
  7. The school official is asked what steps the school has taken to assist the respondent in attending school.
  8. The school official is asked to inform the court what attempt they have taken to work with the parent to get the youth back in school.
  9. Ask school if they believe parent has supported child's truancy. Which days?
  10. Parent and/or child is given opportunity to cross examine witness.
  11. JCA is then given an opportunity to call other witnesses, if necessary, and then rest.
  12. The respondent is thereafter allowed to put on a defense or dispute the truancy petition if they so desire. They are able to testify as to why they believe it is a unnecessary and to submit documents of their own such as a letter from a doctor indicating the youth is excused from school. It should be noted that while a psychosomatic excuse, i.e. anxiety, nausea, stress, is not necessarily an excuse to avoid a truancy order (physical sickness would likely be a better excuse) the court will not overlook psychosomatic disorders that are disabling. The state has an opportunity to cross examine the parent and the court makes its ruling upon conclusion of the evidence being submitted.

II. Truancy Contempt Hearing

  1. The school official's title/position.
  2. Whether that official is in charge of attendance records at the school.
  3. Whether the official is aware the respondent is a subject of the truancy order requiring their attendance at school.
  4. Show school official a copy of truancy order and ask them to indicate the date the order was entered. Ask them the provisions of the order. Ask specifically for the school official to read Ask if the school official did so.
  5. As a result of contacting the juvenile department, are you aware a truancy order violation report was filed against the respondent?
  6. Show the report to the school official while stating all parties have received a copy of this report. Draw the school official's attention to Section 2, Violations. Ask, do those days and times of alleged unexcused absences comport with those you reported to the Juvenile Department?
  7. Ask, did respondent's parent contact you in keeping with their truancy order in order to authorize the respondent's absence on any of those dates of unexcused absence listed?
  8. Do you still contend the respondent's absences on those dates listed are unexcused?
  9. Did you attempt further contact with respondent's parents to inform them of respondent's absences subsequent to the truancy order?
  10. Do you believe respondent's parents are responsible for contributing to their child's unexcused absences?
  11. If court finds respondent has violated their truancy order, what sanctions would you like to see imposed?
  12. Give the parent and/or child opportunity to cross examine the witness.
  13. Call additional witnesses if necessary.
  14. If respondent puts on defense, I will be given opportunity to cross examine.