O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1181 is the Georgia statute that deals with Disrupting a Public School. The law states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly disrupt or interfere with the operation of any public school, public school bus, or public school bus stop as designated by local boards of education.”
While the law applies to both adults and children, for obvious reasons more children than adults are charged with this offense. Until recently (the law changed in 2016), there were no restrictions on how children could be charged with this offense. Now, however, the law provides that:
“A local board of education shall develop a system of progressive discipline that may be imposed on a child accused of violating [this law] before initiating a complaint,” or referring the case to the local juvenile court for prosecution. If a complaint is eventually filed, it must contain information showing that the local board of education:
- Attempted to resolve the problem through available educational approaches, and
- Attempted to engage the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian to resolve the problem, and that person has been unable or unwilling to resolve the problem, and that court intervention is necessary.
For children eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the law provides even more protections. Essentially, school boards are required to reevaluate a child’s eligibility for services and reassess whether the child’s current interventions are working, as well as involve the parents prior to filing a complaint with the local juvenile court.
Penalties for Disruption of Public School Convictions
The statute classifies the offense as a “high and aggravated” misdemeanor. That means that a person 17 or older may be sentenced to up to one year of jail time, plus a fine of up to $5,000.
The law treats juveniles differently, however. In a Georgia Juvenile Court, which hears cases involving people who are under the age of 17 at the time of the offense, different penalties apply. This is because, at least in theory, Georgia Juvenile Courts are charged the “rehabilitation” of children rather than with punishment, and must examine every question through the lens of determining what is in the child’s best interests.
For juvenile Disruption of a Public School cases, possible outcomes include:
- Counseling (for the child and/or the parent),
- Probation (which may be supervised or unsupervised),
- A requirement the child complete high school or obtain a GED diploma,
- Community service,
- Restitution (if applicable), and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.
If the child has a substantial juvenile history (at least four prior adjudications, at least one of which must be a felony offense), the court may also order:
- Placement in an institution, camp, or other facility for delinquent children,
- Commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice, or
- Up to 30 days in a juvenile detention facility.
Why call a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney for a Disrupting a Public School case?
For some parents, it is tempting to look at a juvenile case as “no big deal.” This is a mistake. Juvenile court involvement can be incredibly intrusive and a major inconvenience. It may involve frequent meetings with probation, multiple court appearances, and missed work/school for both parent and child.
If you or your child has been charged with Disrupting a Public School, know your options. Call me today.