In California, all children are required
by law to attend school between the ages of 6 and 18, and must
have good attendance records as well. The state defines legally
truant as a student who misses school with a combination of
the following types of absences without a valid excuse:
unexcused absences and/or
- three tardies and/or
- three absences
of more than 30 minutes
For students who miss school six
times or more during the year with unexcused absences and/or
tardies the child is considered "habitually truant" and
the school may refer a complaint to the district attorney's
office for legal action.
The consequences for a student who is declared
habitually truant are severe for both the student AND the
parents. Under the law, a parent can be prosecuted for
- "failure to compel" a child to
attend school (an infraction with up to a $500 fine for
- violation of Penal Code § 272 "contributing
to the delinquency of a minor" (a misdemeanor with
up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines)
the California legislature voted into law SB1317, which
creates a NEW category, "chronic truancy." The new law
penalizes parents who allow their children in grades Kindergarten
through 8th grade to miss 10% or more of the school year
to be prosecuted for a misdemeanor with up to one year
in jail AND $2,000 in fines. There is no provision for
children who have medical problems, or special education
children with emotional or behavior issues.
for older children are also severe. In addition to the
legal liability for parents, high school students can be
referred to the Juvenile court under Welfare and Institutions
Code § 601 and be placed on probationary supervision.
This Juvenile record can unfairly harm a student's ability
to go to college and adversely affect job prospects.
a student age 13-17 is labeled a "habitual truant," this
may also result in a suspension or delay of driving privileges
under Vehicle Code § 13202.7. This can raise insurance
rates, further increasing the overall cost to the parents.
to Juvenile Court
The SARB (student attendance and review
board) is supposed to act as a kind of safety net to study
each child's or family's issues and needs (i.e., to diagnose & understand
the contributing issues) and to brainstorm ways to support
the child/family so that persistent attendance and behavior
problems can be satisfactorily resolved without involving
the juvenile justice system. The law requires that a school
district work to find alternatives to help the student
remain in school.
In the event the student and parents
fail to satisfactorily participate in those programs
and maintain consistent attendance, school district SARB
officers have the power to refer students and their parents
to court in the form of a "601" petition. If that
happens, you need a highly experienced attorney who can work
within the court system to preserve the child's rights and
fight for more productive solutions than penalties alone.
If your child has been referred for
truancy, it is STRONGLY RECOMMMENDED THAT YOU HIRE an experienced
juvenile defense attorney. Call
the Law Offices
of Johnson & Johnson today for a free
consultation at (925) 952-8900.