Child Requiring Assistance Case
A public school in MA filed a petition alleging that a student was a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA). The student was alleged to have been missing more than eight days of school in one quarter without a legitimate excuse. According to the school, the student was truant.
During a Juvenile Court hearing, evidence showed that the student missed school to address a bladder condition and associated emotional problems such as anxiety and depression. The CRA statue requires the child to intentionally fail to attend school.
The Juvenile Court judge ruled that the student did intentionally choose not to attend school. The Juvenile Court judge stated that the evidence was that there were no official assessments declaring the student “home bound” or otherwise unable to attend and benefit from school. The Juvenile Court judge adjudicated the student a CRA.
On appeal, the highest court in MA, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), issued a ruling authored by Chief Justice Barbara A. Lank. The SJC ruled that the CRA statue is to “address the root causes of juvenile delinquency.” The SJC stated the Juvenile Court must consider the child’s purpose for not attending school when determining if the child is a CRA.
The SJC determined that there was no evidence indicating that the student intentionally missed school or has problematic behavior that could lead to juvenile delinquency given the uncontested facts. The evidence presented showed that the student missed school to address her medical and emotional problems. These issues were nonintentional in nature. The SJC did not find any proof that the modification of the student’s custody arrangement would improve her attendance record. The SJC vacated the Juvenile Court’s ruling and dismissed the CRA petition.
Kevin Seaver is a trusted lawyer since 1991, recognized expert, successfully specializing in fighting the Department of Children and Families (DCF) throughout the Commonwealth of MA.