Earlier today, I posted on Frank Cabada of Santa Ana's Hector Godinez Fundamental High School being among six Latino high school seniors from around the country honored this morning by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in Beverly Hills.
It's unlikely Cabada, a math and engineering whiz, would have attained such distinction had he been the child of Toya Daniels, Gustavo Martinez, Maria de la Luz Martinez, Cheree Peoples, Toni Marie Aranda or Virginia Ferrer Avila.
Those Orange County parents have been arrested on suspicion of allowing their children to be chronically truant to school despite repeated warnings from police and school officials.
"California law requires school-aged children to be enrolled in and attend school and failure to comply with the law can result in juvenile court proceedings for the child or criminal prosecution of the parent(s)," reads a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
"The defendants in this case are each charged with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one misdemeanor count of failure to reasonably supervise or encourage school attendance. If convicted, each defendant faces a sentence ranging from probation up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines."
Arraignment dates are to be determined, according to prosecutors.
The arrests came after a sweep by the Orange County Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP), a law enforcement partnership that identifies at-risk youth and aims to increase school attendance and decrease gang activity. Teams came from OCDA, the Buena Park Police Department, the Orange County Probation Department, the Orange Police Department, the Santa Ana Police Department and Santa Ana Unified School District Police Department.
All arrests were made in the morning after the parents' children had been taken to school, the OCDA notes, adding that each defendant was booked into the Orange County Jail and released on their own recognizance prior to the end of the school day "to ensure that no child would be left without proper childcare."
The same agency boasted the first-ever prosecution against parents of truants in 2011, although the charges did not stick against all defendants:
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The full statement on the next page lays out the cases against each parent in the latest prosecution . . .
April 18, 2013
SIX PARENTS ARRESTED ON CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR PUTTING SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN AT RISK BY ALLOWING CHRONIC TRUANCY DESPITE SCHOOL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT WARNINGS
*Pool video is available to the media from ABC7 (English) and KMEX Univision 34 (Spanish) and pool still photographs are available from the Orange County Register
SANTA ANA - Law enforcement arrested six parents today for allowing their children to be chronically truant despite repeated warnings from the schools and police. California law requires school-aged children to be enrolled in and attend school and failure to comply with the law can result in juvenile court proceedings for the child or criminal prosecution of the parent(s). The defendants in this case are each charged with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one misdemeanor count of failure to reasonably supervise or encourage school attendance. If convicted, each defendant faces a sentence ranging from probation up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines. The defendants' arraignment dates are to be determined.
These parent truancy arrests were conducted by the Orange County Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP) teams from the Buena Park Police Department, Orange County District Attorney's Office, Orange County Probation Department, Orange Police Department, Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD), and Santa Ana Unified School District Police Department. OC GRIP is a law enforcement partnership that identifies at-risk youth and aims to increase school attendance and decrease gang activity.
All arrests were made in the morning after the defendants' children had been taken to school. The defendants were booked into the Orange County Jail and released on their own recognizance prior to the end of the school day to ensure that no child would be left without proper childcare.
Defendant Toya Latrice Daniels
Daniels, 38, has an elementary school student at James A. Whitaker Elementary School in Buena Park. As of March 2013, the student had accumulated 17 unexcused absences. The school principal referred the student to OC GRIP because of a history of unexcused absences, dating back to kindergarten, and lack of parent involvement in requiring and encouraging school attendance.
A number of resources were made available to Daniels and her student including parenting classes, parent counseling and support services through the OC GRIP case manager, a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, a teacher mentor, monthly meeting with a law enforcement officer, OC GRIP meetings to address the attendance issues, an after school homework and care program, and support services and follow-up through the OC GRIP case manager. The school district provided notice of the truancy issue and opportunities to help resolve the problem. The defendant is accused of failing to attend any of the meetings or utilize any of the many resources made available to her and her student.
Defendants Gustavo Martinez and Maria de la Luz Martinez
Gustavo Martinez, 48, and Maria Martinez, 37, have an elementary student at Kennedy Elementary School in Santa Ana and another minor teenage child. As of January 2013, the elementary student had 12 unexcused absences and the minor teenager had yet to be enrolled in school, more than five months into the school year. The elementary school principal referred the elementary student to OC GRIP because of a history of unexcused absences. An OC GRIP case manager was assigned to follow up with the family and provide services as needed. The case manager attempted to contact the defendants, leaving phone messages, but Martinez and Martinez are accused of failing to return any calls.
On Jan. 28, 2013, the OC GRIP committee conducted a truancy sweep and home visit. The elementary student was found at home instead of at school. During that visit, the minor teen was also found in the home. The teen was not in school and OC GRIP determined that the teen had not been enrolled in any school for this school year.
An intervention meeting was scheduled Feb. 21, 2013, for the family with OC GRIP and school personnel at SAPD. Maria Martinez is accused of failing to attend the meeting and claiming that their family would be in Mexico during that time. On Feb. 21, 2013, the day of the cancelled meeting, the elementary student was in school and not in Mexico, contrary to the indication of the defendant.
Defendant Cheree Peoples
Peoples, 33, has an elementary student at Carl E. Gilbert Elementary School in Buena Park. As of January 2013, the student had accumulated 20 unexcused absences. The school principal referred the student OC GRIP because of excessive unexcused absences and lack of interest on behalf of the defendant to remediate the problem.
Starting on Nov. 12, 2012, the school district began sending letters to Peoples regarding her child's unexcused absences, requesting to meet to discuss the problem, and requiring doctors' notes for any further absences. On Dec. 12, 2012, the school district sent a letter noting that the student had accumulated 15 unexcused absences and requiring a parent meeting. On Jan. 7, 2013, the school referred the student to the school district's Special Services Office (SSO), which requested a meeting with Peoples to address the attendance issue. SSO asked Peoples for doctors' notes or records to account for her child's absences, but the defendant is accused of failing to provide any.
On Jan. 18, 2013, a third letter was sent to Peoples, as her child had accumulated 20 unexcused absences. All letters sent to Peoples requested that she contact the school for assistance on how to get her student to school. During the above-described process, an OC GRIP case manager also attempted to provide services to Peoples with little or no response. The defendant was offered counseling and parenting classes. OC GRIP personnel conducted two intervention meetings to try and help the defendant. The student was provided the opportunity for a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, a mentor at school, monthly meetings with law enforcement officers, a case manager, and a number of incentives to encourage regular school attendance. The defendant is accused of failing to utilize any of the resources made available to her and her student.
Defendant Toni Marie Aranda
Aranda, 32, has two elementary students, who attended Davis Elementary School in Santa Ana and then transferred to Frederick Remington Elementary School in Santa Ana. As of March 2013, the younger student had accumulated 24 unexcused absences and the older student had accumulated 23 unexcused absences. The Davis Elementary School Principal referred both students to OC GRIP because of a number of concerns, including unexcused absences and lack of parental involvement and indifference to the children's well-being.
A case manager was immediately assigned to work with the family. On Dec. 5, 2012, OC GRIP conducted an intervention meeting with Aranda at SAPD. The defendant was offered the opportunity to sign the children up for Big Brother Big Sisters of Orange County. A teacher mentor was assigned to both students. Law enforcement officers and the case manager continued to meet with the students at school on a monthly basis, but the attendance issues continued.
The case manager, school, and OC GRIP law enforcement officers conducted intervention meetings and continued to try and motivate Aranda to take her children to school and informing her of applicable laws and eventual legal consequences if the issues continued. Aranda was offered counseling and parenting classes, in which she is accused of failing to participate. The case manager continued to try and work with Aranda, attempting to make contact with her in excess of 26 times. The defendant is accused of failing to comply with her legal obligation to keep her children in school and failing to utilize any of the resources offered for her and her children.
OC GRIP law enforcement officers conducted welfare checks to ensure the children were safe. In early December 2012, Aranda is accused of disconnecting her phone number and transferring the students to another Santa Ana school, Frederick Remington Elementary School. OC GRIP continued to monitor the family to try and motivate Aranda take her children to school.
Defendant Virginia Ferrer Avila
Avila, 34, has a middle school student at Yorba Middle School in Orange. As of March 2013, her student had accumulated 21 unexcused absences. In August 2012, the school principal referred the student to OC GRIP because of a history of school-attendance issues and lack of parental involvement in trying to correct the problem.
An OC GRIP case manager was assigned to work with the family. On Nov. 7, 2012, Avila is accused of attending an OC GRIP parent meeting, where parents were informed of applicable truancy laws, legal consequences for non-compliance, and offered a number of resources. Avila is accused of being initially receptive to the offered services, including signing up for a mentor for her student and counseling and parenting classes, all free of charge.
On Feb. 14, 2013, the school scheduled a meeting to discuss the truancy issue, but Avila is accused of failing to attend. School staff conducted a home visit and left a message with a person in the home that the meeting was missed and requesting the defendant contact the school, but the defendant is accused of failing to comply. OC GRIP officers and the case manager began meeting with the student on a monthly basis to try and motivate and encourage school attendance.
On Feb. 15, 2013, Avila is accused of reporting to the school that her student had been matched with a mentor, however, the student continued to accumulate unexcused absences. The school had several parent conferences to try and resolve the attendance issue. On Feb. 19, 2013, an OC GRIP officer and the case manager met with the student at school to address the continuing unexcused absences. On Feb. 21, 2013, OC GRIP conducted a truancy sweep of targeted students with the most unexcused absences, including the child of Avila, who was not in school that day.