Criminal contempt for skipping school?

Is there any legal authority for a judge to order a dependent child to attend school and then hold her in contempt when she skips? I’ve heard that a child is currently sitting in juvenile detention over the weekend under those exact circumstances.

(Note: not one of my clients.)


A quick Westlaw search of “section 39 & contempt” gave the first result as A.A. v. Rolle, 604 So.2d 813 (Fla. 1992), which specifically holds:

The acts of contempt committed by the dependent children in this case constituted running away from home and refusing to go to school. These acts are ones that the legislature deems a sign of children in need of services, not children in need of punishment. See § 39.01(8)(a), Fla.Stat. (Supp.1990). It is inconceivable that a system of justice that has removed these children from their parents or guardians, ostensibly “[t]o provide … care, safety, and protection,” section 39.001(2)(b), would instead incarcerate them because of resultant behavior attributable to neglect or abuse.

We therefore hold that, under chapter 39, juveniles may not be incarcerated for contempt of court by being placed in secure detention facilities.

That seems clear enough to me.


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