Habitual Truancy Leads to Mother’s Arrest

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Student’s Habitual Truancy Leads to Mother’s ArrestOn Monday, June 6, 2011, the mother of a Washington Middle School student was arrested and booked after failing to ensure her son’s regular attendance in school, in violation of a new truancy law that provides for criminal prosecution of excessive unexcused school absences that became effective earlier this year. The arrest is the first for this violation in the City of Long Beach.

Earlier this year, Long Beach Police Juvenile Detectives began working with the City Prosecutor’s Office on a new law that went into effect January 1, 2011, regarding chronic student truancy (Penal Code Section 270.1.) This new law covers students attending Kindergarten through 8th grade, where parents must ensure regular attendance in school. Students may not have more than 10% of unexcused absences in the school year, which is 175 days.

Officers quickly identified a Washington Middle School student that missed more than 20 days of school and had been through the LBUSD’s School Attendance Review Board (SARB) process. Following the SARB process, no improvement was made on the student’s attendance and the case was presented to the City Prosecutor’s Office who in turn set up and held at five meetings which included the Long Beach Police Department, the Long Beach Unified School District and the student’s mother, 43-year-old Ermila Zamora, to address the concern.

After several months, the student’s attendance still had not improved and the City Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrest of Zamora. By the time of her arrest, the student had over 50 days of unexcused absences from school. Investigators also learned that in 2007, Zamora was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, for failing to ensure the attendance in school of her older son as well.

The goal of the new law is to get kids in school and for parents to understand that they are accountable if they fail to do so. Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert said, “We are taking school truancy seriously. Police officers and school officials are doing everything they can to keep kids in school and out of trouble, and if parents are unwilling to take responsibility themselves, then we will take action against the parents.”

The Long Beach Police Department, the Long Beach Unified School District and the Office of the City Prosecutor would like to remind all parents of students Kindergarten through 8th grade that unexcused school truancy not only deprives the student of valuable education, but can subject them to criminal prosecution of a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,000.00 fine.

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