Four parents arrested for not sending children to school

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

If you don’t send your children to school, you could now be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.

Earlier this month, three Weed residents and a Yreka man were arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor after failing to send their children to school, according to Sheriff’s spokesperson Allison Giannini.

Heather Laura Mills, 33 of Weed, Kathleen Marie Loutsenhizer-Phay 34 of Weed, Jeremy Joseph Pearson 34, of Weed and Mark Timothy Hoffman 37 of Yreka have been all been released from the Siskiyou County Jail with future dates to appear in court. Their children are between the ages of 6 and 9.

The arrests were made possible through a cooperative effort between the Siskiyou County District Attorney, Siskiyou County Probation Department, Siskiyou County Office of Education and the Siskiyou County Sheriff Department,  as well as a grant obtained by Chief Probation Officer Todd Heie, Giannini said.

The Siskiyou County Student Attendance Review Board has, for the first time, followed through with actions against these parents after a long process to encourage them to send their children to school, Giannini said.

The SARB board includes professionals from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, Yreka Police Department, and County Office of Education, Behavioral Health, Child Protective Services, Karuk Tribe, Human Services, the Probation Department, and the Office of the District Attorney.  

The process

Prior to actual hearings, a lengthy process is involved. , said Giannini. Students who are identified by their school as habitually truant, usually after three unexcused absences, receive a first notification. This first letter usually solves the problem. The second letter, usually sent out after five unexcused absences, calls for a meeting between the school and the parent(s) in an effort to resolve the problem. 

The Probation Department has a probation officer assigned to the Truancy Abatement Program, and he also attends these meetings whenever possible. This stage also resolves many of the cases, Giannini said.

A third letter, to notice and calendar a SARB hearing before the full board, is sent out after seven unexcused absences.

The child and parent are compelled to attend the hearing, the goal of which is to formulate a plan to ensure that the student is going to be successful in their school attendance going forward. A SARB contract is signed by all parties.

The four cases that resulted in arrests all involved parents who had signed a SARB contract but had failed to abide by the terms – and the student continued to be truant, Giannini said. Only after all of these stages and opportunities to resolve the problem does the District Attorney’s Office consider charging the parent(s) with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The four parents who were arrested in the recent sweep had young children with no control over their school attendance.

They were not teenagers “skipping school,” but are young children who rely on their parents. In these cases the young children are victims of negligent parent(s), Giannini said.

Taking truancy seriously

Chief Probation Officer Todd Heie stated, “Siskiyou County has begun to take truancy more seriously over the past few years. I have been on the SARB board for about ten years, and for years it involved, quite frankly, empty threats, or threats that at least weren’t followed through with. About five years ago I rewrote one of our juvenile grants to create our Truancy Abatement Program. In addition to sitting on the SARB Board supervising all SARB cases, this officer also responds to schools throughout the county to counsel pre-SARB students in an effort to prevent the SARB process from even being initiated.”