DOWNEY — A 38-year-old Downey mother, who pleaded guilty to violating the state Education Code, is one of the first parents to be prosecuted by the district attorney's office in a crackdown on truant children.
Linda M. Parmenter was placed on probation for nine months last week and was ordered to attend parenting classes with her 9-year-old son. The son was ordered to attend school regularly next school year.
Parmenter was sentenced by Downey Municipal Court Judge Robert G. Drees.
Parmenter was prosecuted under the district attorney's Truancy Mediation Program. The program, by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, was initiated in February to enforce the state Education Code provision that requires youths ages 6 to 18 to attend school daily. Since February, the district attorney's office has reviewed 250 cases in the county and referred nine to adult court and 12 to Juvenile Court for code violations.
"When kids are not in school they are out in the streets," Deputy Dist. Atty. Leslie Hanke said. She said the program may also prevent crimes by youths who are frequently absent from school.
State Reviews Case
Truancy problems go to the state School Attendance Review Board where a hearing is held. Both the guardian and student are asked to sign an agreement to comply with the law. The case is reviewed 45 days later.
If the student is still not attending school, the case is turned over to the district attorney for another hearing and possible prosecution.
A parent convicted of violating the code faces a maximum fine of $100 and five days in jail.
"Ira Reiner came to us with this idea," said Milton Dooley, a consultant for Los Angeles County Office of Education and Attendance. "This gives the School Attendance Review Board a little more teeth than in the past, because at first there was no bottom line."
Four truancy cases are under investigation in Downey by school officials.
Parmenter was the first parent in Downey to be charged. Four of the five charges filed against her were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea.
During her court appearance, Parmenter said her 9-year-old son had bronchitis and that his absences were health related. She said she was unable to take him to a doctor and decided to keep him out of school.
"I know they are making an example out of me," Parmenter said outside the courtroom. "I am a single mother. I am doing it all by myself. I can't afford a baby-sitter. I guess I'll just stay on ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) and send him out to school on time," she said.
Absent 55 Days
The boy, Andrew Parmenter, was absent 55 days in 1989, according to Stan Hanstad, director of pupil and support services for Downey Unified School District
"Our intent is not to throw people into jail, but to hold people accountable to get their children in school," Hanstad said. He said he is pursuing four other cases in the city because "parents have willfully defied" the orders of the School Attendance Review Board.