Truancy in the State of California

It is more common than you think that students skip out of class early or skip classes altogether. As we quickly approach the close of the 2021-2022 school year, many high schools even have what has come to be known as ditch day. The purpose of this day set aside for those graduating is meant in good fun, and missing school one day will not land the student in the truancy office. However, missing too many school days in a year can result in penalties for the parents and the student. Knowing the details of the law around the truancy of a minor in the State of California can help avoid facing these charges.

School Funding Directly Relates to Attendance

Whether you have children or not, you probably know schools receive money for each student in each class on every scheduled day of school. So, when a student misses a class, the school doesn’t get the money. Although truancy is not outlawed, state representatives know the value of being in school, getting educated, and that a school campus is a safe place for minors to be during the day when most parents are working, and they would otherwise be unsupervised.

If a student skips school one day, it does not mean a court date. Under California law, a student must miss three classes without an excuse in one day. The administration will often initiate a call to speak with the parents in these situations. However, after four unexcused absences, the school administration is obligated, under state law, to notify the attendance supervisor for the district. At this point, it is monitored by the superintendent's office. Beyond five days of unexcused absence, the school administration may refer the student to the juvenile courts. Five or more days are considered habitually truant, and both the student and parents can face charges and fines.

Truancy Penalties and Parental Responsibility

Considered a minor crime comparatively, truancy cases rarely see court time or a judge. Because they are often not regarded as severe enough to have a court hearing, the penalties are also not severe. The penalties can often be met through attending educational classes, probation, or community service.

It is state law to send your children to school or be enrolled in a homeschool program. As COVID-19 forced students to engage in e-learning, and as safety requirement regulations regularly changed in California, many families did opt to continue educating their children at home and virtually. This adds complexity to attendance, and even homeschool programs must log a certain number of hours for each enrolled child. Although a homeschooled child is not likely to ditch language, the state still requires the continuing education of all school-age children.

Parents are often held responsible for a child's excessive truancy. Although the reasons may vary (long commute, traffic, transportation issues, etc.), typically, a parent's behavior creates truancy. This is not always the case, and an experienced attorney will help present your argument. If a parent is referred to the District Attorney's office due to habitual truancy, the parent may face fines of $500. If younger students, before high school age, miss greater than 10% of scheduled school days in any given year, the fines increase significantly and can also include jail time for the parent.

Anyone found responsible for contributing to a student's truancy may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. If charged and found guilty, fined up to $2,000, in addition to time in jail. Suppose you are facing charges related to student truancy or contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Seek professional legal help. Finding a reputable and established defense attorney in San Diego may mean the difference between fines, jail time, and dismissed charges. It is best to work with the school administrators and avoid having truancy issues go the district level. However, if it does go to district administrators and habitual truancy continues, you may face criminal charges in the state of California. You should seek the best criminal defense attorney available. A professional lawyer will help navigate your case and work to protect you and your family from facing fines and jail time. Established and experienced defense lawyers like Joni K. Eisenstein offers free consultations and can begin working on your case immediately.

Attorney Eisenstein has been working to help fight criminal charges in San Diego for 27 years. She will work relentlessly to get the best outcome possible in your case. Joni recognizes how fines and jail time can negatively impact the lives of those facing criminal charges. Loss of work, difficulty finding housing, and just the day-to-day needs of those that depend on you can be very disruptive. Bringing expert working knowledge of the Southern California legal system is critical to successfully fighting truancy-related charges. The sooner you have legal representation, the sooner you can rest knowing you have someone fighting for you every step of the way.