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Judges reverse teen’s adjudication for school absences, tardies

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The state didn’t show that a teenager was in need of care, treatment, or rehabilitation regarding school attendance, so his adjudication as a delinquent child for missing school should be reversed, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In C.S. v. State of Indiana, No. 67A01-1101-JS-19, the state filed a delinquency petition in November 2010 alleging C.S. violated the attendance law. C.S. was a sophomore at North Putnam High School and at the time the petition was filed, he had one full-day unexcused absence, was marked absent from class without excuse for five class periods, and was tardy 12 times during the fall semester. C.S. was grounded by his mother after she learned of the absences and afterward, he was no longer tardy or had unexcused absences for the fall semester.

After a fact-finding hearing, the juvenile court found C.S. violated the attendance law and sentenced him to six months formal probation.

On appeal, C.S. claimed the state never presented evidence to prove that he was in need of care, treatment, or rehabilitation, which is required to adjudicate a child for a status offense such as violating the attendance law.

Relating to this issue, the state only presented C.S.’s attendance record and evidence of C.S.’s school performance relating to his attitude, not his attendance. The state argued that C.S.’s violation of the compulsory attendance law implicitly showed he needed care, treatment, or rehabilitation, but the judges dismissed that argument citing R.B. v. State, 839 N.E.2d 1282, 1283 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), and G.N. v. State, 833 N.E.2d 1071, 1075 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005).

“The present case can be readily distinguished. In R.B., the juvenile had twenty-three full-day, unexcused absences and in G.N., fifteen full-day, unexcused absences. In the present case, C.S. had one unexcused full-day absence. In absence of any other evidence that C.S. was in need of care, treatment or rehabilitation regarding school attendance, we cannot infer such need from a single unexcused absence,” wrote Judge James Kirsch.

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