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Truancy Laws & Penalties in California

Posted in Criminal Defense,Juvenile Crimes on August 20, 2019

Under California’s Constitution, public education is declared to be an essential and fundamental right for all. Public education for all children between the ages of 6 and 18 is compulsory. Children between those ages who frequently miss school are subject to disciplinary actions, and their parents could be in trouble with the law.

A child who does not attend school on a regular basis could be considered truant under the law.

  • Truancy is a juvenile offense that has various consequences for a child and their parents or guardians.

Defining truancy in California

Truancy in California is defined as students who are absent three times in the same school year without permission or a valid reason for the absence. Additionally, being late or away from school more than 30 minutes in a school day counts as an absence.

What are valid excuses allowed under state law?

Under California law, the following count as valid excuses for absence and will not be counted towards a child’s unexcused absences:

  • Healthcare appointments or illness
  • Taking care of a sick child (if the student is the custodial parent)
  • Attending funeral services for the death of immediate family members
  • Spending time with immediate family members who are in the military and are leaving for combat deployment or have just returned from deployment
  • Entertainment industry workers (with a permit) or participating in a nonprofit performance for a public school audience
  • Student attending their own naturalization ceremony to become a citizen
  • Person reasons such as religious holidays and ceremonies as long as the school leader has approved the parent’s request for the absence

What is the truancy process in California?

There are various steps for truancy:

  • First notice of truancy will occur after three combined unexcused absences or tardies. The school will notify the parent or guardian.
  • Second notice of truancy will occur after the student’s fourth unexcused absence or tardy. The school will report the student to the attendance supervisor or school superintendent.
  • Third notice of truancy will occur when a student has five unexcused absences or tardies. The school will attempt to arrange a meeting with a parent or guardian. At this point, the student will be labeled as chronically or habitually truant and school could:
    • refer the care to the Student Attendance and Review Board (SARB)
    • hold mandatory meetings with the parent, student, and school attendance liaison
    • require the student and parent to enroll in mandatory counseling courses
    • refer the case to the District Attorney for extreme cases

Consequences that student could face as a result of being truant include:

  • License suspension, restriction, or delay of driving privileges
  • Parent escort to school
  • Mandatory educational programs
  • Referral to the California Juvenile Court

Can parents go to jail for their child’s truancy?

Parents have an obligation to ensure their kids attend school. Failing to do so and failing to attend corrective review boards could lead to fines ranging from $100 to $500. Additionally, a parent could face misdemeanor charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor with penalties of:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Fines of up to $2,500

Parents could also face contempt of court charges if they do not obey court orders connected to truancy proceedings.

If a school has filed a petition with the Juvenile Court concerning your child’s truancy, you should speak with a qualified and experienced attorney about your case. A criminal defense lawyer will be able to explain your rights in this situation and help you form a plan moving forward.