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Charges Against Mother of Truant Girl Dismissed

December 21, 1989|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Glendale Municipal Court commissioner Wednesday dropped charges against a Glendale parent who faced prosecution because of her teen-age daughter's chronic truancy.

The decision by Commissioner Joseph DeVanon brought an abrupt end to the first criminal action ever taken by the Glendale Unified School District over a child's absenteeism.

Misdemeanor charges against Julie Birss, 42, were dismissed because she proved she had abided by authorities' instructions by getting counseling for herself and her 15-year-old daughter, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Seki said.

Seki said he requested that the charges be dismissed.

Even though the girl still is not in school, documentation showed that Birss had done what she could to get her daughter to attend, Seki said.

Birss, who works at a natural food store, was charged Nov. 6 with failing to comply with the State Education Code, which requires parents to ensure that youths 6 to 18 attend school daily.

Her daughter has attended school only a few days since 1987, court records show. She was enrolled in a continuation school after failing to attend her seventh-grade classes at Wilson Junior High School. She skipped classes there and did not show up for meetings with a Los Angeles County Schools review board, according to court documents.

Birss said Wednesday that she and her daughter attended 10 family counseling sessions at a Montrose facility between June and October to satisfy an earlier court order.

Seki said Birss failed to inform the authorities that she had complied with the order, "but she did show proof to me."

But Birss said a lack of communication between the court and the Montrose counseling center kept authorities from knowing they had received counseling.

Birss, who became tearful when asked about her daughter, said the girl ran away Oct. 27 and hasn't come home since. The teen-ager calls periodically but never reveals her location, Birss said.

Birss, a former Glendale elementary school aide, said she wants her daughter to have a good education and has not idea why she won't stay in school.

Birss could have faced up to $230 in fines if she had been convicted, prosecutors said.

Last year, 55 cases involving chronically truant children and their parents were examined by Glendale's School Attendance Review Board, which recommended two of the cases for prosecution, school district officials have said. One was resolved in a hearing, and the other led to the charges filed against Birss.

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