California School Presses Kidnapping, Burglary Charges Against a Mom Who Legally Signed Her Child Out of School – Opinion

Brittany Sheehan managed to get out of an abusive relationship. She also complied with the custody rules and was protected against domestic violence. For that, she’s being rewarded with criminal charges for kidnapping and burglary after signing her daughter out of school.

Nevada mom Brittany Sheehan was reluctant to allow her six-year-old daughter, T, to travel to California to visit her father for the summer for multiple reasons, but her biggest fear was that her ex-boyfriend, Justin Manty, wouldn’t return T for the school year. Sheehan had worked to secure admission to a private school for T, and did not want her to attend public schools – especially in California. Manty signed a document notarizing that T would be attending school in Nevada. This would require him to return her to Sheehan. She eventually relented.

This agreement was signed by both the parties, and is dated May 24, 2020.

In section 5, the first paragraph reads:

Justin Manty has agreed that he will cover tuition costs at private schools. Both parents have agreed to the child’s school attendance at American Heritage Academy in Henderson, Nevada, in the absence of any unforeseen circumstances such as non-acceptance to the school.

RedState spoke with Sheehan who said that T was admitted to school. A date for academic testing was also set. But Manty didn’t respond to any of their communications over the summer, so T did not attend academic testing. In early August Manty informed her that he had no intention of returning their daughter for school, and within days of that Sheehan filed a custody case in Nevada asking for T’s return. Anybody who has ever been involved with family law cases will know that it can be difficult to get any type of resolution. The multi-state aspect makes this even more complicated. Manty then filed a California custody case, failing to serve Sheehan. On October 20, a California judge transferred jurisdiction to Nevada. However, a Nevada court has still scheduled a hearing.

In September and October, Sheehan’s concerns for T’s well-being grew. She’d always been T’s sole caregiver; Manty had a total of 17 visits with T, 15 of them supervised, prior to the summer visitation. T was unable to see her mother for so many months, which was manifesting itself in her behaviour.  Sheehan raised concerns for T’s welfare during the custody jurisdiction hearings and said that T was “often crying for me, hiding from her dad on phone calls.”

Sheehan was also aware that Manty might be violent. She says she suffered domestic violence throughout her pregnancy. Baby T was also a victim. Sheehan filed for two domestic violence order restraining her in 2016 and has given multiple photographs proving abuse. Sheehan is also worried about her behavior in recent court hearings.

“He was having emotional roller coasters in court, from yelling with arms raised to breaking down and crying when a judge wanted to order visitation (but didn’t due to the jurisdiction arguments).”

Because of those behaviors, and due to other concerns relayed to her by members of the community in Madera, by early November Sheehan believed T wasn’t safe with Manty any longer:

“I was concerned enough that went to my daughter’s school to pick her up. I’m under no order. I am fully entitled to parental rights. I exercised those rights in her protection.”

Sheehan had been in contact with T’s school, Hillside Elementary in Madera, California, so she could be listed as T’s mother on school records and contacted by the school if there were any concerns about her. On October 8, 2021, she contacted the school about some concerns and they asked that she send “any legal documentation” regarding T and a copy of her ID for their file, which she did.

Brittany Sheehan, email to Hillside Elementary School staff in Madera CA

The email attachment included a PDF file, as shown in the screenshot. RedState reviewed this attachment and determined that Sheehan was referring to the minute order. The minute order makes multiple references to Manty’s criminal and domestic violence history, and although it’s not signed, that would give school administrators a sense that there could be domestic violence issues they should be aware of. The photo attached to the email was a photo of Sheehan’s Nevada driver’s license.

The elementary school administrators might or might not have had access to Manty’s criminal history,  prior to the day Sheehan arrived to sign T out of school, but it is extensive. Manty is a felon who was last released from probation for drug-related charges in 2018.

CREDIT: Mugshots.com
Justin Manty’s Fresno County case history. CREDIT: Screenshot

Sheehan visited the elementary school Thursday, November 4, to sign T Out.

“The school knew who I was. On request, I provided them my details in an email. My ID was requested by them upon my arrival. I showed it. As all other parents who had the same rights as me, I also signed the clipboard. They promised to get her out of the classroom.

“As the minutes dragged on, the superintendent appeared all breathless and white and sweaty and panicked— I realized they probably weren’t bringing my daughter. The truth was that they tried to hide my daughter from her mother.

“I went towards the building of my child’s classroom and the administrator calls law enforcement, even looking toward me to help her give my description. I reminded her they checked my ID and it’s on file. I proclaimed (loudly) that I had full rights and she had ‘no legal basis’ to do this.

As a parent picks up their child, she begins filming me and my child.

“I got to the classroom door and knocked. The door was open for me. My daughter came running up, excitedly yelling ‘Mommy!’ and jumped into my arms.

“We exited the classroom. “My daughter was determined to retrieve her backpack, so once again I knocked at the door. It was open for me.” We retrieved the backpack as the students shouted goodbye to us.”

The Superintendent has not replied to RedState’s request for comment.

Sheehan didn’t wait around for law enforcement for two reasons – one, because she believes she was fully within her rights to pick her daughter up from school, especially given the well-founded concerns for her child’s welfare, and two, because she feared what would happen if Manty showed up.

Unfortunately, I didn’t believe that law enforcement were en route to uphold my fundamental rights recognized by the Supreme Court to the care and custody and control of my child. My domestic abuser was raging and I was afraid that the situation would escalate. The superintendent followed us to the vehicle and recorded our movements before we left.

Noting that my daughter picked me up from school, there was not a custody order. I am entitled to full custody, custody and control of my child as any parent, according both the SCOTUS and CA Uniform Parentage Acts. This is unless there are 14th Amendment due processes, in which case that could change.

Sheehan was then contacted shortly thereafter by law enforcement.

After I informed the sheriffs that I wasn’t in their jurisdiction, they asked me to assure her safety. We agreed this was a civil matter. He said it could escalate to a criminal matter if I didn’t contact her father to notify him of our whereabouts. I asked, “Does that mean to send him a text when we get home?” He said he couldn’t give legal advice. Since I wasn’t being detained and had a right to travel I went home and texted the father we were home and safe.

On the way home, T told Sheehan about the physical abuse she’d suffered from Manty.

Sheehan managed to get an emergency session with her therapist on Sunday. On November 8, she obtained a temporary order for T’s full custody and Manty was denied any contact with T.

Sheehan stated that Madera County police officers had told Nevada authorities the custody case was dissolved. The case can still be found on the Clark County website.

“The therapist attempted to report the abuse to authorities. They were interested more in hearing the Madera sheriffs tell them that the Nevada case for custody had been dissolved. The Madera sheriffs also reported that the child was missing. It was clear the child wasn’t missing; she was with her mom who was now attempting to report abuse to law enforcement.”

Although the Madera County Sheriff’s Deputy Sheehan spoke with on November 4 agreed with her that this was a civil matter and could only escalate to a criminal matter if she didn’t let Manty know where T was, the next week things changed:

“Over the next days an investigator contacted me from Madera. I informed him of my rights to custody and that I wasn’t guilty of a crime. He was informed of the allegations and the existence of a restraining or. He represented that he wouldn’t have me arrested if I brought my child to him. I told him I didn’t understand the legal basis he had to demand my child or be charged.

“Nevertheless, they have charged me with three felonies and issued an arrest warrant. One for deprivation of custody, which isn’t possible when you have a concurrent right to custody – and I did. A for kidnapping. It is possible to take your child with you, but it’s impossible. The last charge is for burglary; I suppose for knocking on my child’s classroom door.”

RedState reached out to the Madera County Clerk for Superior Court via phone on November 15. They wanted the criminal complaint as well as the sworn support letter filed on November 8. These were not accessible on the website. According to the clerk, there are two options to obtain a copy. You can either physically visit the Madera County Clerk of Superior Court (about three hours from Los Angeles) or you can fax it in. They will review the request and inform us if the information is available. A request was faxed in that day, but there’s been no reply.

Some readers might be wondering, given Manty’s alleged history of domestic violence and his criminal record, why Sheehan allowed visitation when it wasn’t ordered. She elaborates:

“The only reason I let my daughter start having out-of-state visitation with her dad was because he had completed felony probation and got his driver’s license back. I was afraid if I didn’t allow visitation I would be deemed the “bad guy” if a lawsuit did ever come up. And, we had a notarized agreement.”

Obviously, the custody case is complex and will need to wind its way through the family court system and potentially criminal courts – and isn’t the business of school administrators. Their business is to educate children and keep them safe while they’re at school. Their business isn’t to play “hide the child” or to refuse to allow a parent with full custody rights to sign their child out of school. Sheehan explained:

“The charges are bizarre, punitive, and legal abuse at the behest of authoritarian public servants.

“They deny parental rights exist.

“I will have to go through a costly criminal court process to have my fundamental rights upheld while attempting to continue to protect my child from the alleged abuse and while continuing the custody battle.

“These public schools are dangerous to liberty, and they displayed that by thinking they can pick and choose whose rights they want to recognize, by concealing a child from a parent, by escalating the situation by calling law enforcement on a parent, by refusing to provide records to a lawful custodian, by filming a student being checked out of school, and by putting their thumb on the scale of a civil case that has nothing to do with their arbitrary opinions.”

Sheehan was scheduled for arraignment on December 7. The state wants $100,000 bail.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read more about Sheehan’s story here.)

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