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COA affirms trial courts in truant kindergartner cases

November 18, 2011

The Indiana Court of Appeals has sided with the trial courts in two cases that have been consolidated in one appeal in determining that referral and attendance records for truant students were admissible at trial under the state’s business records exception.

In Alesha Houston and Donna Gruzinsky v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1101-CR-77, Alesha Houston’s child had 27 unexcused absences from kindergarten between Aug. 14, 2009 and April 23, 2010. Donna Gruzinsky’s child, who attended a different school, had 26 unexcused absences and was tardy 45 times between Aug. 11, 2009, and April 20, 2010. Both women were served with notices of failure to ensure school attendance as a Class B misdemeanor.

Gruzinsky argued that referral and attendance records were not admissible at trial under hearsay rules, because the attendance officer had no personal knowledge of her child’s absences. She further contended the referral records could not have been prepared in the regular course of business and therefore should not have been admitted under the business records exception.

The appeals court held that the records were admissible under the business records exception, which does not require personal knowledge of the events, and that part of the forms were completed during business hours.

Houston argued that she received ineffective counsel because her attorney did not object to the admission of referral and attendance records. The appeals court held that even if Houston’s attorney had objected, the objection would not have been sustained.

The appellate court held that in both cases, the state laid a proper foundation for the evidence admitted under the business records exception. Therefore, the evidence was not hearsay, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting it into evidence.  
 

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