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April 25, 2002

For More Information, Contact:
Kristina Loquist at (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D - Palo Alto) announced today that the California State Senate’s Education Committee has approved Assembly Bill 886, Simitian’s bill to protect the educational rights of “court-orphaned minors.”  The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The phrase “court-orphaned minor” is often used to describe children who are abused, neglected, abandoned or delinquent and who become wards of the court.  While they may be placed in group homes, shelters or foster family settings, they are often left without anyone legally authorized to speak for them and make decisions within the public school system.

“These youngsters are among the neediest and most vulnerable in our society,” said Simitian.  “Yet all too often these kids are cast adrift in a sea of bureaucracy.  AB 886 ensures that every child will have a responsible adult to speak for them, to be an advocate and to make educational decisions on their behalf.”

AB 886 requires that whenever the court specifically limits the right of a parent or guardian to make educational decisions for a child, the court must immediately appoint another responsible adult to make educational decisions for that child.  “Without the immediate appointment of another responsible adult,” said Simitian, “a child can easily fall between the cracks in our system, unable to access the critical services he or she may need.”

A school-aged child in this situation might, for example, be unable to register for school because a school district of residence cannot be determined without the residence of the parent/guardian of the child.  Similarly, a child in this circumstance may have difficulty receiving special education services, be unable to take required medications at school, or may not have an emergency information card with someone to contact in case of an emergency.

“The current system essentially punishes the child for mistakes the parents may have made,” Simitian noted.  “It’s just not right to leave these kids without a responsible adult to look after their educational interests.”

Judge Len Edwards, Presiding Juvenile Judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, said, “We do a relatively good job of assigning educational surrogates in our County, but unfortunately this is not true throughout the State.  It is of immense importance that these kids have someone to keep track of their schooling and help them get an appropriate education.”

Simitian’s bill would also require that when the court grants a petition to remove the guardian or conservator of a minor or tender the resignation of the guardian or conservator, if the court does not immediately appoint a successor guardian or conservator, the court shall appoint a responsible adult to make educational decisions for the minor until a successor guardian is appointed.