The parent who stood trial and was found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor due to her child’s school truancy was sentenced on Thursday in the Siskiyou County Superior Court to three years of probation.
The parent who stood trial and was found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor due to her child’s school truancy was sentenced on Thursday, Feb. 23 in the Siskiyou County Superior Court to three years of probation.
Superior Court Judge William Davis also ordered Heather Mills, 33, to undergo 50 hours of community service, pay a $380 fine plus restitution and assessment fees, ensure her child attends school regularly and continually provide the student’s current school attendance records to the court for review.
If Mills violates the terms of her probation, Davis said he would order her to serve 20 days in the Siskiyou County Jail.
Mills’ charge stemmed from the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years when her son was a first and second grade student at Weed Elementary School. She has since relocated with her child to Oregon.
Mills was one of four parents arrested last May and charged for their children’s truancy.
Each parent went before the Siskiyou County Student Attendance Review Board for a hearing, where they signed a contract agreeing to correct the problem.
They failed to abide by the terms of the contract, and they were arrested.
Misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor are pending for the three other parents, confirmed SARB coordinator Sherri Hanna.
Prior to Mills’ sentence being issued, Siskiyou County Deputy District Attorney Martha Aker recommended that Davis sentence Mills to three months in jail and 100 hours of community service. She also requested that the judge order the payment of fines, as well as continual review of the student’s current school attendance records.
“The purpose of this sentencing is deterrence. This is an important case. Truancy is a huge problem,” Aker said. “Everybody knows how important it is for a child to be educated … This court needs to send a message that parents need to take their children to school.”
Aker added that the Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office has received feedback from school officials that other parents are improving truancy problems due to the exposure of this case.
“The prosecution would like to have an impact on the community such that attendance requirements would be more closely adhered to,” Davis responded. “That is a worthy goal.”
However, Davis said that this is “not appropriate” to take into consideration when addressing sentencing.
“The court does not believe based on the evidence presented that Ms. Mills was maliciously intending to harm her child,” Davis said.
Having received the student’s current school records, Davis pointed out that the prosecution has helped prompt the defendant to improve her child’s school attendance in Oregon.
Mills was originally scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 10. At that time, she told the court during her statement that her son was being bullied while he was a student at Weed Elementary School, which was in part the cause of the truancy.
She also stated that a conviction of contributing to the delinquency of a minor would impact her current employment and make it difficult to obtain future employment in her chosen career field.
Since Mills is her son’s sole support, Davis stated that he was concerned about the welfare of the child if the charge resulted in her inability to provide for him. Davis postponed the sentence to determine whether the court had the authority to issue a deferred entry of judgment.
A deferred entry of judgment, or DEJ, would have meant that Mills would have been given a specific amount of time to fulfill obligations ordered by the court. If she met those obligations by the end of that time period, the charge would have been dropped.
However, “It does not make sense to do that,” Davis said on Thursday before issuing the sentence. “The charge may preclude Ms. Mills from getting jobs in certain lines of work, but I don’t know if we can do anything about that.”
According to Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus, a DEJ is sometimes granted to those who enter pre-trial guilty pleas for low-level crimes. Andrus previously said that he had never heard of a judge issuing a DEJ after a jury trial.
Andrus also stated that there is no record of Mills reporting the bullying problem to the SARB board or to school officials. He further commented that during the trial, school officials testified that they never witnessed the child being bullied.
Regarding Mills’ sentence, Andrus said, “The focus in this case was never on incarceration, but on deterrence and rehabilitation – meaning that we would hope that it improves the educational opportunities of her child and other similarly situated children. The hope is that this would curtail parent-driven truancy and support the SARB process as an effective tool in providing children the educational opportunity to succeed.”