Raising children, especially teenagers, is rife with challenges. As anyone with a 15-year-old knows, there are few things you can "make" them do if they are dead-set against it.
But it's important to note as we are in the midst of a new school year that even if you can't force your child to go school - or be there on time - repeated unexcused absences or reports of tardiness can lead to involvement from New York City's Administration for Children's Services.
That could result in a more in-depth investigation of your home life by social workers. Just in and of itself, "educational neglect" is considered worthy of sanctions under Section 34 of New York State's Social Service Law. Part One of Article 65 of the New York State Education Law, Section 3205(1)(c) requires children must attend full-time instruction from the time they are 6-years-old until the child is 16. The board of education can require minors from 16 to 17 to attend full-time school if they are not employed.
Our Brooklyn ACS defense lawyers recognize that this statute leaves very little room for exception, even when children are known to have behavioral problems, mental health issues or substance abuse struggles. Many times, what you and your child need is assistance - not the threat of separation, which only serves to compound the anxiety. We are committed to helping parents move past allegations of educational neglect.
In general, there are three necessary elements required to prove educational neglect in New York on the basis of absenteeism. These are:
- Excessive absence from school by the child, with confirmation that these absences are unexcused;
- Reasonable cause to suspect parent is aware or should have been aware of the absenteeism and the parent either contributed to the problem or failed to provide a minimum degree of care;
- Reasonable cause to suspect educational impairment or harm to the child or imminent danger of such harm.
Of course, definitions for terms like "reasonable" are subject to interpretation, and that's where an experienced ACS defense lawyer can help.
The recent case of In re Jaden E. reveals what can happen in one of the worst case scenarios for a parent. Although a California case, the basic legal premise is still relevant here.
In this case, the child was 7-years-old, and information obtained by the local human services agency indicated he was chronically tardy or absent. Additionally, his behavior had deteriorated significantly. He was constantly disruptive. He refused to go to class. He threw tables and chairs. He wouldn't complete class assignments. He kept leaving school grounds. He peed in a bathroom sink. He growled when confronted for misbehavior.
The school had recommended his mother attain mental health services for him, but she reportedly had not done so. School staff suspected she was struggling with substance abuse, which affected her ability to effectively parent him.
At one point, she took him to the police department and said she "couldn't handle him" any longer. She eventually agreed to take him back, but later left him with his father for several days. Later, the local child services agency received information the mother had binged during that time on drugs, and had recently admitted to using methamphetamine.
Ultimately, the juvenile court terminated the reunification services the mother had been receiving to get her son back. She appealed, but the decision was upheld.
Obviously, there were other issues going on in this case, but the bottom line is that educational neglect is taken seriously by schools, social service agencies and the courts. We understand you will need someone to advocate on behalf of you, the relationship you share with your child and your child's future.
To defend a report of educational neglect in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
In re Jaden E. , Sept. 19, 2014, California Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, Division Four
More Blog Entries: