HSLDA Media Release
January 28, 1999

Judge strikes down unconstitutional Monrovia daytime curfew

For immediate release
January 28, 1999
Contact: Rich Jefferson
(540) 338-8663 or media@hslda.org

MONROVIA, CA—In a decision that could have nationwide implications on daytime curfews, the City of Monrovia’s daytime curfew was struck down yesterday (January 27) by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge.

     “Judge Carolyn Kuhl’s ruling makes it clear that Monrovia’s ordinance directly contradicts the state truancy law,” said Michael Farris, lead attorney for the plaintiffs and president of Home School Legal Defense Association. “Children who are on the street in compliance with state attendance law, should not be hassled by local police just because the city officials don’t like the state law. The rule of law means that all officials—including the police—need to obey laws they don’t like.”

     Home School Legal Defense Association challenged Monrovia’s ordinance after home school students Jess and Ben Harrahill were detained and questioned repeatedly by Monrovia police when walking home from a part-time class taken at the public school. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of five private and home school students and their parents, named the City of Monrovia and its Chief of Police, Joseph Santoro as defendants.

     Monrovia’s ordinance made it punishable by fine or community service for “any minor under the age of eighteen years who is subject to compulsory education, . . . to loiter, wander, or be in or upon . . . public places, public buildings, places of amusement and eating places, vacant lots or any supervised place during the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on days when school is in session.”

     Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl of the Los Angeles Superior Court, State of California, said that Monrovia’s daytime curfew contradicts state truancy law by not permitting the same level of freedom allowed by current state law.

     California state law expressly excuses a minor from school attendance for reasons of an “illness, medical or dental appointment, a funeral service for a member of the immediate family and enumerated ‘justifiable reasons,’” Kuhl said in her opinion. But that same pupil has been subject to receiving a citation under the Monrovia ordinance when on “on a public street or in an unsupervised place,” the opinion said.

     In her decision, Kuhl ruled that Monrovia’s daytime curfew ordinance “may not be enforced,” and “its enforcement is permanently enjoined.”

     “We caution Monrovia not to simply amend the ordinance,” said Farris. “The judge said that our arguments against truancy are ‘very substantial.’ Reenactment of the ordinance would provoke another lawsuit, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. The Monrovia City Council should instead get tough on real juvenile crime—using existing law—and not waste any more time or money on daytime curfews.”