Is Skipping School A Crime?
What Is Truancy?
Truancy means absent from school without permission, and California defines a student as being truant if he or she has any combination of the following:
- Three unexcused absences
- Three unexcused tardies
- Three absences exceeding thirty minutes
California defines a student as chronically truant as a student who misses school, or is tardy, on five or more occasions.
Consequences For Truant Students
Students who are truant face a range of possible consequences, but only in the most severe cases is a student referred to a local district attorney or juvenile court.
The most common consequences for truant students are:
- Referral to the district’s School Attendance and Review Board (“SARB”)
- Compulsory meetings between the student, parents, and school officials
- Compulsory counseling courses with required proof of attendance and completion
The primary goal of California’s truancy laws is not punishment, but rather to diagnose and encourage truant students to stay in school and get an education so that they’ll have the knowledge and skills necessary to move ahead in their lives.
Consequences For Parents Of Truant Students
Here in California, parents have a legal responsibility to compel their children to attend public school. Parents who fail to compel their children to attend school, or who actively help and encourage them to skip school, may face criminal charges.
Parents can be fined up to $500 if they fail to compel their children to attend school. They can be fined up to $2,000 and face up to a year in jail if a court finds that they contributed to the delinquency of their child.
For children in kindergarten through eighth grade, parents can be fined up to $2,500 and may face up to one year in jail if they permit their child to miss ten percent or more of school days.
Can An Attorney Help?
California school districts have wide latitude in determining how to handle cases of student truancy. Only in the most severe and chronic cases will school officials decide to initiate legal action against a student and/or the student’s parents.
If you or your child are being charged with a crime related to truancy, then you absolutely should contact an attorney. In all other cases, however, parents, their children, and the school should find a solution without having to involve lawyers.
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