Can I Go to Jail Because My Child Misses School?
In some cases, yes.
Parents or guardians are responsible for ensuring that their children attend school, and the family court will punish parents with fines or even jail time if their children continue to miss school after a court order is in place – even though it is not clear that punishment is effective at compelling school attendance, and it may have a disproportionate effect on poor families.
Going to school is compulsory for SC children ages 5 to 17, whether they attend a public, private, or state-approved home school. If they play hooky too often, they can find themselves in family court – and their parents will suffer the consequences.
When is it Okay to Miss School?
When it comes to school absences, there are two kinds – lawful and unlawful.
Lawful reasons for missing school include:
- The student is seriously ill, and attendance would be bad for them or for the health of others;
- A death of serious illness in the student’s immediate family;
- A state-recognized religious holiday;
- Medically necessary medical appointments; and
- The principal approved an absence in advance for an extracurricular school activity.
SC students are allowed generally to have 10 lawful absences each school year. They are considered truant if they unlawfully miss three days in a row or five days in one school year.
What Happens When Students Skip School Unlawfully?
So, if your kid skips school without your knowledge, it’s not your fault, right?
Wrong. If your child skips school without your knowledge, that’s an unlawful absence – and you can be held accountable for it if it keeps happening.
If your child has too many unlawful absences, the school is required to let you know, meet with you and your child, find out what’s causing so many absences, and work with you to develop a written intervention plan.
If your child misses two more days unlawfully despite the intervention plan, the school will label them a “habitual truant,” and school officials may take your child – and you – to the family court.
What Happens if My Child Has to Go to Court for Truancy?
Once your child is in front of a family court judge, the Court will most likely issue a School Attendance Order – ordering your child to attend school and ordering you to ensure that your child attends school.
If your child still continues to skip school, they become a “chronic truant” and both you and your child may end up back in front of the judge again – and, there can be serious consequences.
What Happens if My Child Continues to Skip School?
If you are brought back to court after the judge has ordered you to ensure your child is in school, you may be held in contempt of court and, in extreme cases, your child could be removed from your home. Depending on the home situation and the reasons for the child missing school, the court may:
- Order DSS to investigate;
- Put your child on probation, send them to an evaluation center, or even send them to a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility; or
- Hold you in contempt of court for not following the School Attendance Order, and you could be sent to jail for up to 30 days.
At this point, if you do not already have an attorney involved, you need to contact your SC truancy and juvenile defense attorney at Coastal Law and talk to us about the following:
- Why your child keeps missing school;
- How the school let you know about the absences;
- Whether you complied with the intervention plan;
- Which, if any, service referrals were included in the plan; and
- What changes we can make to ensure that your child is attending school and that any problems the child is having at home get resolved to the Court’s satisfaction.
SC Juvenile Defense and Truancy Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Conway, and Columbia
If your child is being taken to court for truancy, both your child and you are at risk of serious consequences, and you will need to move quickly to resolve the problem. The juvenile defense attorneys at Coastal Law will help you to put a plan in place and represent you or your child in court to protect your interests and your family.
Call now at (843) 488-5000 or send us an email to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.
1104 North Oak Street
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
1314 2nd Avenue
Conway, SC 29526
231 King Street
Charleston, SC 29401
1201 Main Street, Suite 1913
Columbia, SC 29201
** Please be aware that any result achieved on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.
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** This website is meant to provide meaningful information, but does not create an attorney-client relationship. As each legal issue is unique, please consult with our firm prior to relying on any information found on this site.