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The Rationale for Truancy Laws

Truancy is a serious concern for all in the education system. It involves a student's absence from school without a good reason or unexcused absences. It's not just the school officials or school personnel who worry. The student's parents, the board of education, and law enforcement agencies are also interested in this issue.

Compulsory education began over 100 years ago. Labor unions trying to keep kids from working strongly influenced the law. The participation of children in the labor force kept adult wages low. School attendance also transferred some authority of parents over children to the state. This is because parents could no longer force their children to work.

The case Prince v. Massachusetts in 1944 underscored the state's authority to require school attendance. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that the state had the right to uphold child labor laws. Parents' authority could not preempt that of the state. So, children had to attend school whether or not their parents supported education.

Education became a requirement for children under a certain age. Failure to attend school, or "truancy," violated this rule. The purpose of this section is to give a brief background on the rationale for truancy laws.

The Rationale for Truancy Laws

Truancy laws exist to ensure that all students have access to educational services. Students deserve equal education regardless of their sexual orientation or national origin. These laws help maintain a structured learning environment.

State laws and federal laws regulate the years of age when a child should attend school. The school-age rules typically demand enrollment and attendance from ages 6 to 16. For example, in Arizona, all children between ages 6 and 16 must be "provided with instruction." They must learn about the subjects: reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science (A.R.S. § 15-802 et seq.).

Public schools, charter schools, and private schools work with their boards of education every year. Together, they enforce the compulsory school attendance law. The school's staff aims to encourage regular school attendance. This is important because attendance during school days impacts grade-level performance. It can also affect the school program.

Brief Background of Truancy Laws

This subsection gives a brief background of truancy laws. School boards and their designees are crucial in managing student conduct. It is vital that school administrators, like the school principal, enforce these laws on school grounds. They should also enforce these rules during school-sponsored activities.

Students have rights, too. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and due process under the United States Code (U.S.C.) protect students. This means that school personnel must follow the code of conduct. They must respect the students' rights during any disciplinary action.

School-sponsored events during the school year and after-school programs play a role in helping student attendance. They offer engaging opportunities on school property for students to connect with their peers. Students may also discover new interests through these events. School staff and secondary school students manage these events. They often contribute to students wanting to go to school and stay beyond school hours.

The school staff must also guide student behavior. They are to do this during these extracurricular activities and, as usual, during regular school days. These activities contribute to the learning experience. But remember, the student discipline rules still apply at these events.

Understanding Excused and Unexcused Absences

Student attendance is about more than just being physically present at school. It involves participating in the learning process. There are, of course, situations when a student can't attend school. The school principal or a designated staff member may grant an excused absence or a similar exemption in such cases.

The U.S. Department of Education outlines specific criteria for excused absence. For example, illness or a family emergency might qualify. These excused absences differ from unexcused absences or truancy. Examples of this are when a student skips school without a valid reason.

Truancy and Links to Other Crimes

There is a known connection between truancy and juvenile delinquency. For this reason, the school may refer a truant student to a law enforcement officer. Chronic truancy is a risk factor for substance abuse, delinquency, adult criminality, suicide attempts, and employment problems, according to the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. It also relates to auto theft and gang behavior. Criminology literature established these links. Studies examining male criminality show a relationship between truancy and future violent offenses.

Residents have also pressured schools and lawmakers to tighten truancy laws. This is because groups of young people loitering in public during school hours often appear threatening. Consider Tacoma, Washington. There, an increase in truancy correlated with increased juvenile-perpetrated property crimes. Examples of these crimes include burglary and vandalism. This increase in juvenile daytime crime led to an initiative. The program targeted the enforcement of truancy laws in this state.

Truancy and Academic Achievement

School districts with the highest truancy rates also have the lowest academic achievement rates. Truancy policies establish this link. These policies deem automatic failure in courses where students are regularly absent. So, students who do not attend school regularly are unlikely to graduate from high school.

The recent influx of students through immigration has important implications for high school dropout rates. Researchers have linked this correlation to parental attitudes toward education. But coming from countries where education is not highly valued, parents may not encourage their children to attend school. This can lead to an increase in truancy and dropout rates.

Failure at the high school level affects the individual and society. Affected students cannot attend college. They are also more likely to have low-paying jobs and to feel political apathy. This can cause a loss in tax revenue and may cause these students to experience health problems. This, in turn, can place a strain on social services.

Poor attendance can severely impact a student's academic achievement. School discipline for such behavior often involves out-of-school suspension. But, schools may recommend alternative education programs or community service. Special education services can help address truancy issues through the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). But if truancy continues, the school board may send a written notice to the student's parents or legal guardian within a few calendar days.

Sanctions for Truancy

When a student repeatedly violates school attendance laws, sanctions may be necessary. This is regardless of the cause of the truancy -- tardiness or full absences. The specific disciplinary action will depend on the school's code of conduct. They can range from parent-teacher conferences to school-based detention or in-school suspension. In severe cases, out-of-school suspension might result. Law enforcement might also get involved. For example, if a student skips school to sell controlled substances, they will face legal and school consequences.

The focus is on promoting positive behavior and achieving a solid learning environment in school in all cases. The truancy issue can be effectively addressed with the cooperation of all involved.

Getting Legal Help with Truancy Issues

Every individual student and their issues are important. Don't take absence from school lightly. The goal is not just to have students on school grounds or at school-sponsored activities. Students should also be a part of the learning community. To achieve this, school administrators, school employees, students, and parents must work together to promote good student behavior and reduce student absences. Remember, education is more than school-related; it's life-related.

Parents or students can contact their local education department if they need legal help understanding attendance law or board policy. If truancy issues persist, a school may refer students to mental health providers to address underlying issues. Keeping kids in school during the school year is everyone's priority.

Talk to an education attorney for legal assistance today.

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