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2009-12-03 - 1:28 a.m.

I am writing in response to the letter dated November 30th which I received today from $%&$^($^* , Attendance Officer

First of all I would like to point out an oversight: I share joint legal and physical custody of my children and note that Mr. WESTLEY was not included on the correspondence from the school.

While I can not speak for WESTLEY ,

I respectfully decline the opportunity to meet with %^$(^# this Friday morning Dec 4th to discuss concerns regarding our children. At that time I have the obligation of taking a sick child to the Dr. for a follow up appointment to tend to her asthma. Furthermore, I have no interest in re-scheduling as there is absolutely no need to discuss the fact our children are at times a few moments late for school at all. There is nothing to discuss. Both parents make every effort to get our straight A students to school on time, however we each are in the role of single parent head of household of four girls under Age 9, one of whom is diagnosed with a disability, such that even with best efforts, our children are occasionally late. The responsibility to address that concern is shared by Mr. WESTLEY and I alone, and is out of the domain and responsibility of Lincoln Elementary. Neither of us are interested in shifting any of our parental obligations onto the school. It is overreaching that an attempt has been made to mandate parents to attend a meeting setting a date and time without having even attempted to discuss availability or inquire if the parents have any interest in such.

There has been a grave error and misunderstanding of VA Code 22.1-254. The letter said "failure to attend this meeting may result in immediate court action in the County Juvenile Court."

That law allows the school to initiate an action with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in the case of absences in which a parent or parents have not been aware and consenting of.

I have attached the law for your review. I really think it very important protocol that prior to threatening legal action one actually reads and familiarizes themselves with the law. Otherwise, one might just discover their intentions are not met, and there may in fact be unexpected consequences.

As a case in point, when my Ex Husband willfully was violating our custody arrangement, and the school called the Sheriff to prevent me from carrying my child home, I think it may have been a surprise to discover that a parent indeed has a legal right to pick up a resistant child and carry that child home. It also may have been a surprise to discover that a parent and a school have a legal obligation to support a custody order, regardless of how they feel about it. I was ever so grateful for the Sheriff's assistance in enforcing my custody order , in particular as school personnel were actively interfering with my right as a parent, and supporting a violation of the law in an unacceptable manner.

It might be worth pointing out that at this juncture the only one who actually has a cause of action at this time for any legal case happens to be me.

I do thank the absolutely wonderful support I have received in supporting my rights and dignity throughout the years in a variety of domestic issues , and in enforcing the law,over and over again, from the County Sheriff's Office. They have proved themselves to be knowledgeable of the law, respectful of the dignity of individuals, and marvelous in resolving issues which have been raised in a courteous, professional manner.

I do expect that the County Schools will take the opportunity to arise to the occasion to follow the Sheriff Department's outstanding example of professionalism. Should you have any further difficulty in understanding the law I recommend them as a wonderful resource.

I think it also worth mentioning that the school acted like that was so horrible for me to pick up a resistant child, yet on the occasion that Raitlin was not cooperative in going to her class I watched Mrs. $(%&@#&$, who so strongly objected to that technique I used with Katie, pick up Raitlin and carry her into Mr. $*%&#'s empty classroom such that she had a place to calm which was removed from the kindergarten class. I did not see any school personnel object and pull the child from her arms as was done to me.

I would like to share from the Juvenile and Relations Court site the overview of VA Code 22.1-254:

" Child in Need of Supervision meets one of these criteria:
1.
A juvenile subject to mandatory school attendance, is habitually absent without valid excuse."

To date, on the few occasions my children have been absent I have made the school aware that they have been due to illness or behavioral issues. On each occasion the school has been notified of such and it has never been a question that when my children were not in school whether they were in the care of either of their parents.

While I am educating you on law, I would also like to reiterate a few things which I have mentioned before:

As I have asked to be the first point of contact when a child under my custodial care has an issue, $($%#& Elementary has an obligation to follow through on contacting me first such that I have the opportunity to assist. It may be a surprise that when I ask that my next point of emergency contact be called from my list, that the school has a legal obligation to then follow the emergency instructions for my children's care when they are in my custodial care (which at this point in time is my nanny.) Only then if we are both unavailable should the third point of contact of Mr. Westley then be called.

I would like to add, that if the Attendance Officer had ample time on her hands to threaten parents with legal action at the juncture at which four children under the age of 9 have been tardy a total of 3,6,6 and 7 times, it seems very clear to me that there must not be significant issues in our schools which the truant officer is tending to. I recommend that serious consideration be made to eliminating the position completely in this time of economic shortfalls , as the capable Sheriff's Office will most professionally offer any assistance should compliance with compulsory education laws actually be required. The way I look at it, your truant officer seems to be more of a legal liability than an asset at this point in time.

Regards,
MSAFIRE, JD, QMRP
Georgetown Law/SUNY at Buffalo School of Law
Graduated with Honors in Education Law Concentration

22.1-258 follows:

22.1-258. Appointment of attendance officers; notification when pupil fails to report to school.
Every school board shall have power to appoint one or more attendance officers, who shall be charged with the enforcement of the provisions of this article. Where no attendance officer is appointed by the school board, the division superintendent shall act as attendance officer.
Whenever any pupil fails to report to school on a regularly scheduled school day and no indication has been received by school personnel that the pupil's parent is aware of and supports the pupil's absence, a reasonable effort to notify by telephone the parent to obtain an explanation for the pupil's absence shall be made by the attendance officer, other school personnel, or volunteers organized by the school administration for this purpose. Any such volunteers shall not be liable for any civil damages for any acts or omissions resulting from making such reasonable efforts to notify parents and obtain such explanation when such acts or omissions are taken in good faith, unless such acts or omissions were the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct. This subsection shall not be construed to limit, withdraw, or overturn any defense or immunity already existing in statutory or common law or to affect any claim occurring prior to the effective date of this law. School divisions are encouraged to use noninstructional personnel for this notice.
Whenever any pupil fails to report to school for a total of five scheduled school days for the school year and no indication has been received by school personnel that the pupil's parent is aware of and supports the pupil's absence, and a reasonable effort to notify the parent has failed, the school principal or his designee shall make a reasonable effort to ensure that direct contact is made with the parent, either in person or through telephone conversation, by the attendance officer to obtain an explanation for the pupil's absence and to explain to the parent the consequences of continued nonattendance. The attendance officer, the pupil, and the pupil's parent shall jointly develop a plan to resolve the pupil's nonattendance. Such plan shall include documentation of the reasons for the pupil's nonattendance.
If the pupil is absent an additional day after direct contact with the pupil's parent and the attendance officer has received no indication that the pupil's parent is aware of and supports the pupil's absence, the attendance officer shall schedule a conference within ten school days with the pupil, his parent, and school personnel, which conference may include other community service providers, to resolve issues related to the pupil's nonattendance. The conference shall be held no later than fifteen school days after the sixth absence. Upon the next absence by such pupil without indication to the attendance officer that the pupil's parent is aware of and supports the pupil's absence, the school principal or his designee shall notify the attendance officer or the division superintendent, as the case may be, who shall enforce the provisions of this article by either or both of the following: (i) filing a complaint with the juvenile and domestic relations court alleging the pupil is a child in need of supervision as defined in 16.1-228 or (ii) instituting proceedings against the parent pursuant to 18.2-371 or 22.1-262. In filing a complaint against the student, the attendance officer shall provide written documentation of the efforts to comply with the provisions of this section. In the event that both parents have been awarded joint physical custody pursuant to 20-124.2 and the school has received notice of such order, both parents shall be notified at the last known addresses of the parents.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit in any way the authority of any attendance officer or division superintendent to seek immediate compliance with the compulsory school attendance law as set forth in this article.
Attendance officers, other school personnel or volunteers organized by the school administration for this purpose shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability in connection with the notice to parents of a pupil's absence or failure to give such notice as required by this section.
(Code 1950, 22-275.16; 1959, Ex. Sess., c. 72; 1980, c. 559; 1985, c. 482; 1990, c. 797; 1991, c. 295; 1996, cc.891, 916, 964; 1998, c. 620; 1999, c. 526.)

cc: Loudoun County Sheriff's Office patrol division; VA Secretary of Education;Govenor Kaine

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