Sonora, California – Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg announced today that eleven parents were charged and five were cited and released during the execution of Operation Education Matters, the first countywide truancy sweep. This Operation was coordinated by the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office, Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools, and the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office and executed with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol Sonora and Modesto Offices, Tuolumne County Child Welfare Services, and Sonora Police Department.
Jordan Burns, 39, and Amanda Burns, 39, both of Jamestown; Heather Spears, 43, of La Grange; Ora Newman, 50, of Sonora; and Misty Sheridan, 38, of Sonora were all cited and released today for misdemeanor violations of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, failing to address truancy, and/or violations of the education code. The parents contacted were cited in the field, rather than arrested and taken to jail, to minimize disruption to the families.
“Parents need to know that we will aggressively prosecute these cases to protect children and their future,” said Krieg. “Research shows that children who miss substantial periods of school are more likely to drop out of high school and eighty percent of the United States prison population are high school dropouts. Some of the children in our cases have attendance rates of below fifty percent. Where our early collaborative interventions fail to correct truancy, we utilize the criminal justice system to focus and motivate families to prioritize attendance and education,” Krieg added.
Tuolumne County has a centralized School Attendance Review Board (SARB) that addresses student truancy issues. Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Cathy Parker explained, “Parents and guardians have been provided support services from multiple agencies and community partners. Schools work closely with parents through the SARB process in order to remove barriers and provide access to education for their children. In many cases, these children have not been in school for several months or years.”
Superintendent Parker emphasized, “Only when all other efforts have failed do we resort to referring SARB cases to the District Attorney’s Office.” She further added, “Student welfare and safety are always our first concern. We will continue to communicate with our families and their children about the importance of regular school attendance.”
Special thanks go to SARB Board Director Rob Egger, Deputy District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke, and Sheriff’s Sergeant Romel Cuellar for their efforts in coordinating this Operation.
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