With the new school year starting soon, school districts are reminding parents that truancy isn't just the student's and school's problem, but may have serious ramifications for parents as well.
Truancy is the legal name for skipping school. In most states, truancy occurs whenever a student a certain age or under (17 in most states, 16 in some) is absent from school without an excuse from a parent or guardian. Although skipping school is often romanticized in pop culture, according to U.S. News & World Report, school districts are cracking down on both truant students and their parents.
So what can happen if your child skips school?
Discipline for 'Truant' Students
Though truancy refers to skipping school in general, a "truant" is generally a child who has skipped school more than the number of times allowed by a particular school district.
Students who are considered truant will be subject to discipline by the school district, which can include being barred from participating in sports or other activities, suspension, or even expulsion from the school. Increasingly, however, schools are getting tough on truancy by also referring truancy cases to juvenile courts.
In Arizona's Pima County, for example, a student who has three unexcused absences from school is referred to the Center for Juvenile Alternatives, which works with the county's juvenile court system to offer the student, and the student's parents, the choice of a diversion program or court-ordered sanctions.
Criminal Charges Against Parents May Be Possible
An increasing number of states are also filing criminal charges against the parents of truant children.
For example, dozens of parents in Baltimore were sentenced to jail for their children's chronic truancy. And one California mother was sentenced to 180 days in county jail after her two kids missed a total of 116 days of school in 2011.
A couple in Virginia even faced criminal charges after their kids were repeatedly tardy for school. The couple faced up to $3,000 in fines under Virginia's truancy laws after their children were late to school 85 times over the course of several months.
Withdrawing Your Child From School
If you're dissatisfied with your school's curriculum, treatment of your child, or rules regarding truancy, one option is to withdraw your child from public school altogether.
Although withdrawing your child from public school will allow you to homeschool your child, you may still be responsible for adhering to any state laws regarding truancy as they apply to homeschooled children.
If you have more questions about truancy laws and their consequences, consult an experienced education lawyer near you.