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Commonwealth v. Smith

September 9, 2010

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
STANLEY S. SMITH, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Flaherty

Submitted: July 9, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Stanley S. Smith (Smith) appeals, pro se, from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County (trial court), which dismissed the private criminal complaints filed by Smith against James T. Masullo, Jr. (Superintendent Masullo), Superintendent of the Bellefonte Area School District, and Kristopher M. Vancas (Officer Vancas), Attendance Compliance Officer of the Bellefonte Area School District, for failing to comply with the notice requirements of Section 1354 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Act)*fn1, concerning giving notice to parents or guardians before initiating court action regarding a minor student's failure to attend school. We affirm.

Smith made private criminal complaints with the District Attorney of Centre County, Michael Madeira (DA Madeira).*fn2 Smith alleged that Superintendent Masullo and Officer Vancas willfully refused to comply with Section 1354 of the Act, as they did not provide timely and proper notification to Smith before initiating court action against Smith in regard to the June 9, 2009, absence of Smith's eleven-year-old child. On December 2, 2009, DA Madeira sent a letter to Smith which stated as follows:

I have reviewed the Education Act and have determined that any failure to comply with appropriate notice requirements would result in a dismissal of charges against the Parent/Guardian, not the institution of charges against the school district.

Letter, DA Madeira, at 1.

On December 23, 2009, Smith filed a petition for review of the private criminal complaints and a brief in support of such private criminal complaint with the trial court. The trial court undertook a de novo review of the complaints, as DA Madeira's decision to decline such prosecution was based upon a legal evaluation of the sufficiency of the complaints.

Upon review, the trial court determined in pertinent part as follows:

[A]ny failure to comply with appropriate notice requirements would result in the dismissal of charges against the Parent or Guardian and not in the institution of criminal charges against the school district, its officers, or agents. Accordingly, Petitioner's [Smith's] Private Criminal Complaints are[] DISMISSED.

Trial court opinion at 1. Smith appealed to this court.*fn3

Essentially, Smith contends that the trial court erred and abused its discretion in disapproving the private criminal complaints drafted by Smith.

Specifically, Smith contends that the trial court erred in its interpretation of what constitutes a violation of the Act when Superintendent Masullo and Officer Vancas willfully refused to comply with provisions of the Act and, thus, should be subject to penalties under Section 1355 of the Act, 24 P.S. §13-1355. Further, when the school district officers and/or agents willfully refuse to comply with provisions of the Act, the criminal court has jurisdiction pursuant to 22 Pa. Code §235.6.

First, we will address Smith's contention that the trial court has jurisdiction pursuant to 22 Pa. Code ยง235.6, which ...


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