Truancy Laws in California
In California, all children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend school. The law makes it compulsory for children to receive education from an appropriate provider. A child who does not attend one of the following may face penalties for truancy:
- Public school (elementary school, middle school, high school)
- Private school
- Advanced placement education
- Private tutoring
Truancy law in California holds both the child and their parents accountable for ensuring the child attends school.
What Are California’s Truancy Laws?
California truancy laws are designed to ensure all children receive a minimum level of education. They are set out in the California Education Code.
California Education Code 48260 defines truancy as:
- A child who is tardy three times a year
- A child who is absent for more than 30 minutes three times a year
- A child who is absent for 3 full days in a year
- It will also consider a combination of the above
That is not to say that a child will face truancy penalties if they miss more than three days a year at all. The above definition of truancy only applies to unexcused absences. If a parent provides the school with a valid excuse and any evidence required for the excuse, the absence or missed school will not count towards a truancy quota.
Truancy laws provide the following as valid excuses for absence from school:
- Doctor’s appointments
- Dental appointments
- Vision appointments
- Illness or medical appointments of the student’s child (if they are the legal guardian)
- Attending their own naturalization ceremony
- The student has been ordered to quarantine by a local health officer
- To serve jury duty
- To attend the funeral of an immediate family member
- To see an immediate family member who is serving active duty in the military
- To serve on the precinct board in an election
- For a personal reason that the school approves
- For a personal reason that the school administrator approves at their discretion
What Are the Consequences of Truancy?
Truancy can have consequences for both the parent and the child. Often, the school will try and schedule a meeting between the parent, child, and school officials to discuss the truancy problem. They will attempt to uncover what the issue is and find solutions to support the child in receiving their education. They may allow the child to take alternative education programs or catch up classes so they can continue their education with their peers.
Most school districts recognize that students may have bigger issues in their life and that truancy is just a symptom of a larger problem. If the child has serious health issues or their immediate family member does, school attendance may not be a priority. The child may also be struggling with poor home life and needs a little bit of support.
If the truancy issue is not solved, then it can result in the following penalties:
Truancy Penalties For the Student
The student may face the following repercussions for truancy:
- Mandatory counseling
- Regular meetings with the teachers and parents to deal with the truancy
- Stripped of school privileges
The school may also refer the truancy case to juvenile courts if they are unable to get the student back on track. The court may issue the following penalties:
- Make up classes or make up programs
- Suspend, delay, or revoke driving privileges
- Declare the student a ward of the court (if the parents are found to be lacking)
- Put the minor on juvenile probation
Truancy Penalties For the Parent
Truancy laws recognize that parents play a part in their child’s behavior and should be making efforts to ensure their child attends school. The parent must prove that they are making reasonable efforts to ensure their child receives an education and is not allowing them or encouraging them to miss school. If they are found to be contributing to the child’s truancy, they may face the following penalties:
- Charged with failing to supervise a child’s school attendance – misdemeanor (270.1a PC)
- Charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor – infraction (272 PC)
The truancy will be handled on a case by case basis so that the courts can consider all of the factors involved. A misdemeanor may incur penalties of up to a year in county jail and fines of up to $2,500. The infraction may incur a fine of up to $250 and no jail time or probation.
Some truancy cases uncover deeper issues like domestic abuse and domestic violence, so truancy charges may accompany other related charges too.