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Is It a Crime Not to Send Your Children to School?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

If you're not a big fan of public education, you may be hesitant about signing your kids up. Maybe you feel kids should learn from the university of life, and not from traditional education system.

If that is your plan, think again, as you could end up in big trouble. School attendance is compulsory in every state. Although the laws vary and there are some exceptions for homeschooling, there is nonetheless a general requirement that students attend school from age 6 to 16. Let's look at the law.

Compulsory Education for Children

Compulsory education for children was not actually instituted in order to ensure that children read and write. It was meant to protect them from parents who wanted to send them to work. The first American state to make education compulsory was Massachusetts in 1852. The last state was Mississippi in 1917.

Since then, compulsory education has become the norm and there are public school systems in every state. But the law does not require parents to educate students in public school, of course. You can pay for private education, try to send your kid to a charter school (a sort of public-private hybrid generally peaking), or even educate children at home as long as the lessons learned meet the standards set at school.

The most notable exception to the compulsory education requirement in relatively recent years was decided in 1972. In Wisconsin v. Yoder the US Supreme Court ruled that Amish parents could be exempted from having to send their kids to school past eighth grade.

Parents who avail themselves of government sevrices and do not send their children to school -- or even just let them skip school regularly could face consequences, including loss of some benefits. The potential criminal charges a parent faces if they neglect their children's education altogether vary from state to state.

Why School?

The real reason to give your kids an education, however, is not because the law demands it or because it keeps them off the streets. The reason is that education -- while not a key to financial success (although that is often claimed by its advocates) -- is a key to freedom. Without at least basic skills in reading, writing, and math, it is tough to advance in our brave new electronic world, and even tougher to make any sense of it.


If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, speak to a lawyer. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case.

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