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A Better Partnership
April 16, 2014

COA reverses school truancy adjudication finding that there was insufficient evidence that absences from school due to fear of bullying and related illnesses were "willful"

In the case of People v. Napieraj, the trial court adopted a Family Division referee's decision that the a student was guilty of truancy where that student had been absent from school without a doctor's note, even though the student's mother had kept him home because of the student's fear of bullying and related physical symptoms, such as vomiting.  The Court of Appeals reversed this decision and remanded the case for dismissal.  The Court noted that, under the applicable truancy statute, the absences needed to be "willful" and that here, as the student was subject to bullying and, sometimes would be physically ill in the mornings because of the fear of bullying, the mother exercised reasonable parental discretion in keeping the child home and that those absences were not "willful."  Additionally, the Court of Appeals specifically rejected the referee's position that any absence without a doctor's note, is truancy.  

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