What is Truancy in Florida?
August 25, 2021 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements Social Share
Compulsory Education in Florida
In Florida, Section 1003.21 of the Florida Statutes states that all children who are 6 years old or will be 6 years old by February 1st of any school year, or who are older than six years old but have not yet turned 16, must attend school regularly during the entire school term. Once a child turns 16, they are no longer subject to compulsory education and can file a formal declaration of intent to terminate school enrollment. However, anyone who has not yet turned 16 and fails to regularly attend school may eventually be deemed legally truant.
Truancy is commonly known as the unauthorized absence from compulsory education. Section 1003.26 of the Florida Statutes codifies enforcement of school attendance. The legislature implemented this section to ensure that school districts take an active role in promoting and enforcing attendance to improve the academic performance for students. District school board policies must require that parents of students justify each absence, and that justification will be evaluated based on the adopted school board policies within each district that defines excused or unexcused absences. These measures were implemented to prevent patterns of nonattendance and promote improved student learning. Furthermore, local law enforcement agencies take a role in supporting compulsory education
The statute defines a “habitual truant” as a student who has 15 or more unexcused absences within 90 calendar days with or without the knowledge or consent of the student’s parent or guardian, and who is subject to compulsory school education.
There are specific procedures that must be followed when a student starts to compile unexcused absences. These include:
- The principal must contact the parent of the student after each unexcused absence.
- After a student has five unexcused absences in one month, or 10 within a 90-day period, the principal must refer the case to the child study team. This team will observe the student and if they observe a pattern of truancy, they will schedule a meeting with the parents to discuss the issue and develop potential remedies.
- If this meeting does not solve the problem, the child study team shall evaluate the students for alternative education programs and create an attendance contract with the parents and student. The child study team may also refer the parents and student to social service agencies.
- Parents may appeal to the district school board if they do not agree with the child study team’s remedial strategies. A hearing officer is appointed by the district school board and makes the recommendation for final action. If the district school board determines the child study team’s remedial strategies are appropriate and the parent still refuses to cooperate, the district school superintendent may seek criminal prosecution for noncompliance with compulsory school attendance.
- If a student refuses to comply with school attendance, the parent, the district school superintendent, or his or her designee shall refer the case to a case staffing committee and the superintendent, or his or her designee, may file a truancy petition pursuant to Section 984.141 of the Florida Statutes, in juvenile court.
- If the court determines that the student was truant, the court will order the student to attend school, the parent to ensure the student attends school, and implement alternative sanctions such as mandatory community service hours for up to 6 months, mandatory counseling, mandatory mental health services, or mandatory vocational, job training, or employment services.
- If a student doesn’t obey the court orders the case will be referred to the case staffing committee under Section 984.12 of the Florida Statutes with a recommendation to file a child-in-need-of-services petition pursuant to Section 984.15 of the Florida Statutes.
- If a student continues to disobey the courts orders, they may face additional punishment including juvenile detention.
Parents of truant students may face criminal sanctions. Under Section 1003.27 of the Florida Statutes, a parent who refuses or fails to have a minor student who is under their control attend school regularly, or who refuses or fails to comply with the requirements established by the school district, commits a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to 60 days and a fine up to $500. To avoid these sanctions, the parents must show they were unaware of the absences or made the appropriate effort to keep the student in school. Furthermore, parents who fail to obey court orders regarding truancy or do not fulfill the courts orders such as participating in counseling, parenting classes, or other services may be charged with contempt of court.
In addition, if a student accumulates 15 unexcused absences in a period of 90 days, the public-school principal must provide the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles the student’s legal name, sex, date of birth, and social security number. These students may not be issued a driver’s license or learner driver’s license from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. If they already have a previously issued driver’s license or learner driver’s license, their license shall be suspended. The designee for a private school or a parent whose child is homeschooled may do this if they choose.
Tallahassee, FL Criminal Defense Attorney
Whether you are a parent or a student, truancy charges can carry serious legal repercussions. Therefore, it is imperative you contact a knowledgeable defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Don Pumphrey and team Pumphrey Law firm have years of experience defending clients against a wide variety of charges and will ensure each defense is explored in the favor of you or a loved one’s case. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message for an open and free consultation with a defense attorney on our team.
This article was written by Sarah Kamide