February 16, 2018

The Millis public schools filed a habitual truancy petition, pursuant to the children requiring assistance (CRA) statute, against an autistic child with a severe bladder condition (“M.P.”). A successful CRA truancy petition must establish that the child “willfully fails to attend school.”

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) found that M.P.’s failure to attend school was in fact intentional, but her purpose was to address her bladder condition and associated mental and emotional impairments. The SJC ruled that “willful” under the CRA statute means more than merely acting intentionally (to habitually miss school). It means acting purposefully, such that the child’s behavior arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior.

The SJC dismissed the petition.