Teens skipping school is a tale as old as time. In the words of the most famous high school student ever, Ferris Bueller, “How can I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?”
Although staying home from school for a “mental health” day (or to play video games) may sound better than doing schoolwork to most adolescents, missing too many days without a valid excuse can actually be a juvenile offense called truancy.
Let’s break down what you need to know about school attendance and teen truancy.
What Is Truancy?
Truancy is the failure to attend school without an excuse or good reason. In the U.S., young people who are school-aged are required to attend school, whether it’s public, private, or even home school. The number of unexcused absences you can rack up during a school year before you are labeled “truant” depends on the truancy laws in your state and your school district’s policy. Generally, an unexcused absence is any unauthorized absence from school that is not excused. Absences that are “excused” typically mean you’re missing school because of:
Planned absence approved by the school
The enforcement of truancy laws may be different depending on where you live and go to school. Usually, if you’re absent from school without an excuse for a couple of days, school officials will get in touch with your parents or guardians about your missed days of school. If you accumulate the number of unexcused absences considered truant according to your school, school district, or state law, notifications regarding your truancy will be sent to your parents and the appropriate school officials.
School administrators will often begin addressing truancy by meeting with you and your parents in hopes of identifying and resolving the issues causing you to miss school. This often involves providing students and parents with assistance and resources aimed at improving attendance.
If chronic truancy or absenteeism continues after these efforts, schools will likely file a truancy petition in juvenile court. Truancy is a status offense in many states, meaning it’s against the law for minors, but not necessarily a crime if committed by an adult. However, schools may also be permitted to take legal action against parents or guardians, possibly even by pushing for neglect or other misdemeanor criminal charges.
Penalties for Truant Students
States handle truancy violations differently, and there is a range of possible punishments for students and parents. Penalties for students may include:
Additional school during the summer, weekends, and after the regular school day
Alternative education programs
Counseling services and drug testing (especially for troubled teens or substance abuse in a student’s home)
Denial and suspension of driver’s license or permit
Juvenile detention (in extreme cases)
Parents of truant students may also have to pay fines and attend parent education classes or family counseling.
If you’re a student who suffers from school refusal or some other condition, disability, or circumstance that affects your ability to attend school, check with your school for resources that may be available to improve your attendance. Simply skipping school is not the way to go about it. If you’re a student or parent seeking legal advice to help your teen, use our attorney directory to find a nearby education lawyer.
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