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Truancy-Unexcused Absences From School

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235

Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

school desk

Picture of classroom desks taken by alamosbasement

Everyone can remember the days of sitting in class ignoring the lesson and thinking about what it would be like to be anywhere but in school. You may have even acted on this whim and skipped a class or two. If you got caught in your Ferris Bueller moment, the police would have charged you with truancy. Truancy is the law that keeps children in school at least until they reach the age of sixteen. Kids who willingly skip school and get caught are charged under the juvenile system. But what about their parents?

                If a parent fails to get their child to attend school for a total of seven days during a six month period, they may face a criminal penalty. This penalty is in the form of a fine of $20 and will only be brought if a complaint is sought by the school. Though this may seem like a minor penalty, if you were to try to convince a minor to skip school, the penalty multiples in the form of a $200 fine. These statutes (MGL c. 76 §§ 2 and 4) reflect society’s view of education and its importance to minors. This puts greater responsibility on parents and peers to ensure that every child receives an education.

                Where is a parent’s choice? Well, even though the state mandates school attendance by enforcing criminal penalties, parents do have some other options. Of course there is private and home schooling that is still regulated by the state but does provide alternatives. Religious exceptions can also be made for families that do not believe in sending their children to school until age sixteen. In the landmark case Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972) the state of Wisconsin tried to force Amish parents, through criminal penalties, to send their children to school until the state compulsory age of sixteen. The United States Supreme Court held that the First and Fourteenth Amendments prevented Wisconsin from doing this. Though narrow, the Court made this exception based on religious freedom. Decisions like Yoder show that though the state regulates, parents still have some control over their child’s education.

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