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Is it illegal to ditch school in California?

When most kids reach a certain age, they begin to question whether they have to attend school every day. For some, the question turns into the decision to skip a couple of days of school without their parent's permission. But while this action might seem innocent enough to the student, the law considers it anything but. In fact, unexcused absences and truancies are considered infractions in the eyes of the law; and if a student racks up enough, they as well as their parents could face prosecution and penalties.

The California Legislature defines a student as being truant if they miss "more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three times during the school year." School administrators are required by law to report truancies to the student's parents or guardian. And depending on how much truancy the student has accrued, actions can escalate from the school level to the court level.

If a student is considered habitually truant, meaning they have three or more truancies in a school year, intervention may be required that can include mediation and after school or weekend study programs. If the parent or guardian fails to acknowledge a school's effort to notify them about the student's attendance, then both the student and their parent or guardian may be subject to prosecution down the road.

If a student misses 10 percent or more school days in a year, then they will be considered a chronic truant. Much like a habitual truant, the school must notify the student's parents and make concerted efforts to set up a meeting in order to address the absences. If the parent or guardian fails to meet these expectations, then they could be held just as liable as their child, meaning they too could face prosecution and legal consequences such as fines and jail time.

For those who do not believe that this part of the law is enforced, you need only look at the 2012 case of a California mother who was sentenced to nearly six months in jail for the chronic truancy of her two children. By looking at this particular case, our Dublin readers can see just how serious our state takes ditching school and how it's not just the student who can be held accountable for this decision.

Source: The California Department of Education, "Truancy," Accessed March 3, 2015

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