By law, most children are required to start school at some point in their early lives and remain in school at least until they are old enough to drive. Not all parents follow the legal guidelines and they fail to ensure that their child receives an education. The consequences are considerable when a child doesn't regularly attend school, and they can affect parents and the child far into the future.
It's against the law to let your child skip school and just stay home, and parents can face criminal charges even if they don't know their child is skipping school. The charges vary by state, so the exact penalty will depend on where you live. In certain locations, parents might face revocation of public assistance, such as food stamps, if they fail to send their child to school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In other states, parents might be required to pay a fine, though, again, the exact amount varies by location and circumstances. In other cases, parents might even face jail time if they haven't ensured that their child attends school.
Aside from possible criminal charges, children who don't attend school face long-term consequences. Not attending school means a child won't receive an education, which will make it difficult to pursue college or a good job. Children who are truant and have parents who don't require them to attend school are at a higher risk for substance abuse, gang activity and criminal behavior, according to the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention. As adults, children who didn't attend school regularly are more likely to have health problems, experience mental health disorders and be incarcerated.
Types of Schools
The laws don't state that your child is required to attend public school, but they are required to attend a school. The type of school you choose to send your child to is a personal decision that you should make with your spouse or partner. Public schools are funded by the state, which means you don't have to pay to attend. If transportation is an issue, many public school districts offer bus service so your child has a reliable way to get to and from school. Charter schools are another option, and they are parts of the public school system, too. Private and parochial schools are additional options, and they require you to pay out of pocket for tuition whether your child goes regularly or not. If it's sending your child to a school that you're opposed to, consider home-schooling. Educating your child at home and following state requirements for that education helps you meet the requirements of the law.
Laws requiring children to attend school are, at their core, essential. When children regularly attend school from an early age and through high school, they're more likely to get a better job, break the cycle of poverty and send their own children to high-quality schools. Avoid the consequences by educating yourself about the laws in your state. Find out what age your child needs to be enrolled in school and how long he's required by law to attend. Exceptions are allowed under certain conditions, such as disability and vocational school training, according to the Education Commission of the States. If you or your child are adamantly against attending school, learn about the exceptions to determine whether you qualify.
- Education Commission of the States: Compulsory School Age Requirements
- U.S. Department of Education: The Problem of Truancy in America's Communities
- Johnson and Johnson Law Offices: Juvenile Truancy
- Stearns County Attorney: Truancy
- National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention: Truancy Prevention
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