HB 319 Hearing

A THSC representative testified yesterday at the hearing of HB 319, a bill by State Representative Richard Raymond, that will change the current statute that allows adults to be exempt from jury duty if serving on a jury would cause a child ten years of age or younger to be left alone. The Judiciary Committee hearing was to begin at 2PM, but we did not give testimony on the bill till almost 6:30PM.

Ms. Cassandra Phillips, THSC intern, went by Representative Raymond’s office earlier in the day to let him know that we would be giving testimony in favor of the bill, as we have many home school moms who must serve on juries even with several children at home over the age of ten but younger than 18. Representative Raymond’s staff said they were offering the bill because mothers who serve on jury duty may be subject to charges of abandonment or neglect for leaving their children under 14 alone while doing so. Phillips was the only person giving testimony on the bill, and there was no opposition to the measure. It was left pending in committee for future action. We will continue to monitor the bill and give updates or calls to action, if needed. To review the hearing online, go to the committee page and click on the hearing date of 3-23-09. HB 319 testimony begins at 3:35.

Comments

  1. Christy says

    I had to take a summons to an office in Austin, with all three boys in tow and explain that I couldn’t serve because I had three kids under 10. She asked why they weren’t in school, I told her they were homeschooled. She excused herself to talk to a supervisor. She came back and exempted me, “Just his one time, next time you’ll have to appear.”

  2. timthsc says

    State law requires that you be exempted from jury duty if a child under ten years of age will be left unattended. They MUST excuse you in that situation!

  3. Anonymous says

    Thank you for reporting on this Bill.

    As a homeschool mother of three sons, I have been called to serve Jury Duty, but I have no one to watch my two younger children who are 11 and 10. Our oldest son graduated last year and has been attending college and is not here to help watch and teach the boys while I do Jury Duty. My husband is a single wage earner, a contractor, and in this economy we can neither afford for him to take time off nor can we afford to take the chance of him losing his job if the jury process were to take more than a day. It is hard enough to find someone to watch the boys, most of my friends are homeschool mothers who have their hands full teaching their own children, but then adding to it the reponsibility of teaching my boys and then running them around every day to the different classes and activities they need to go to while I do jury duty is just too much to ask. It’s a very difficult situation to be in.

    The only other option would be to leave my children home alone. I could never do that! NEVER. It is not safe, nor is it legal. This leaves me in quite a pickle, I am really hoping this bill passes! I have a responsibility to my children first. But, I also believe in doing my civil duty to serve our community and country. It’s a situation I shouldn’t even be in.

    I have written my reprsentatives. We need to let them know, the law needs to remember that they can not require a parent to show for jury duty if it means leaving their young children home alone! I would rather get in trouble for not showing up for jury duty then for leaving my children at home without adult supervision.

  4. Anonymous says

    I looked up the Child Abandonment Laws in Texas — where does it say that I can be charged with abandonment if I leave my child that is under 14 alone? I get under 12 — or under 10 for sure, but 14? I can even understand more than one child, but am I in danger of being charged because on occasion I have left my 13 year old alone? Please clear up this issue. Thank you.

  5. timthsc says

    Thanks for your request for clarification. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services there is no
    specific age for which a child may be left alone but the factors used by them include:

    * "the age, emotional maturity and capability of the child;
    * layout and safety of the home, play area, or other setting;
    * neighborhood circumstances, hazards, and risks;
    * the child's ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies; and
    * whether the child has a mental, physical, or medical disability."

    "The number of children left unsupervised, the accessibility to other responsible adults, the length of time or frequency with which the child is left alone, and the child's knowledge of the parent's whereabouts are additional relevant factors."
    https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/About_Child_Protective_Services/faqchildalone.asp

    They also point out that thousands of such cases are ruled as "neglectful supervision" which is the more correct term than the one used in the legal analysis of HB 319, of abandonment or endangerment of a child. The same link discusses the Texas statute regarding leaving a child or children alone in a car. Which prohibits leaving a child under the age of seven in a car alone unless accompanied by a child over the age of fourteen. Therefore many CPS workers use the age of fifteen as a benchmark for a child being left alone. If a complaint is made that children are being left alone, CPS will investigate allegations of neglectful supervision based on the above.

    Hope that helps.

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