IN THE INTEREST OF JM, a minor. RM, Appellant (Respondent),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner)
Appeal from the District Court of Park County. The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge.
Representing Appellant: Matthew D. Winslow of Keegan & Winslow, P.C., Cody, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Kucera.
Guardians ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy Director, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program; Aaron S. Hockman, Permanency Attorney, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program. Argument by Mr. Hockman.
Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE[*], DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.
[¶1] After the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) reported that JM, a minor child, was habitually missing school, a county attorney filed a neglect petition against RM (Mother). The juvenile court conducted a hearing and found that Mother had neglected JM by failing to provide adequate education for his well being. Mother appeals from the order of neglect, claiming she was entitled to notice and counseling from the school district before the neglect petition was filed, she did not receive notice or counseling, and the juvenile court was, therefore, without jurisdiction to adjudicate the petition. We affirm.
[¶2] Mother states the issue for this Court's determination as follows:
Whether Wyoming law requires a school district to counsel a parent and give her actual notice of the consequences of further absences before referring a matter for juvenile proceedings on [an] allegation of juvenile neglect.
The State asserts the compulsory attendance statutes upon which Mother relies do not apply when a juvenile petition is filed by a prosecuting attorney under the Child Protection Act on the basis of a complaint from DFS alleging neglect. The guardian ad litem (GAL) appointed on JM's behalf similarly contends a school district's responsibility to counsel a parent regarding a child's unexcused absences creates no duty and has no bearing on DFS's duty to investigate allegations of neglect.
[¶3] In early May of 2013, a social service worker for DFS learned that JM had missed thirty-six days of school since January 2013 and thirty of those days were unexcused. The previous semester, he had missed twelve days of which eleven were unexcused. The social worker also learned that the school had attempted to notify Mother of JM's absences by sending three letters in February and April 2013 and twice trying to reach her in person in ...