Is It Time to Abolish Truancy Laws for Good?

Yesterday morning as I read of yet another threat against a school in a neighboring district after a middle school student in our own was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to school last week, the issue of truancy laws came to the forefront of my mind.

Should schools have the authority to enforce school attendance when they can no longer guarantee the safety of their students?

I can’t help but find it a bit hypocritical that school districts with frequent incidents of violence can still threaten parents with fines and/or incarceration if their kids miss too much school. It just makes no sense to me. Shouldn’t the parents have the authority to make this decision, especially in light of the rise in school violence recently? 

Think of it this way: If a parent knowingly leaves their child in a potentially precarious situation, chances are that parent may have a run-in with law enforcement, and rightfully so.

So…why do truancy laws force school attendance for an institution that is more and more likely to be unsafe? Here is a short list of recent developments in U.S. schools, not including the two already listed above:

Recent School Violence in the U.S.



I could literally list hundreds more, but I think I made my point. (You can find a more complete list right here.)

Schools. are. not. safe. 

Keep in mind that this list doesn’t even include stabbings, fights, bullying, bomb threats, and sexual assaults. Think about that for a minute.

So again I ask, why are parents forced by law to send their precious children to institutions that are potentially- and increasingly- dangerous places to be?

Several years ago when my kids were still in public school, I drove past their elementary school to find everyone standing outside around the block. I pulled over and asked a teacher what was going on. Bomb threat. I promptly located my kids and found the principal, telling her I was taking my kids home. She wasn’t pleased and informed me it would count as an unexcused absence.

An unexcused absence?

My kids were evacuated from their school for a bomb threat and somehow my taking them home early was unexcusable?? 

I think it’s about time that parent’s rights supercede the rights of the schools. As parents, we need to stand up for our kids and be the advocates they need us to be.

Stop accepting the status quo just because “it’s always been done that way.” (Although it really hasn’t.) Be the voice your kids desperately require.

Aren’t they worth it?



Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

27 thoughts on “Is It Time to Abolish Truancy Laws for Good?”

  1. I no longer have kids at home, but I pulled my own children out of school when my daughter was in grade 4. Some of the older boys were propositioning my young daughter on the playground during recess. The principal told me they really couldn’t prevent it since the teachers on duty can’t see and hear everything that goes on at recess. I transferred my children to private school where the teachers had more control. A couple of years later we brought the children home for school. It is not right that parents must send their children to a school where they may be in harm’s way.

    I’ve never believed in compulsory education. It’s all about money for the school districts. I’ve been a teacher in public schools, and I don’t believe compulsory education is good for the schools, either. Children who hate being there make trouble and ruin the classroom experience for those who do want to learn. Teachers are also in danger from the students who are forced to be there against their will.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, that is so true, Barbara. John Holt used to bring up the idea that if students could attend school voluntarily, much less time would be wasted with kids who disrupt everything because they don’t want to be there. And money is a huge factor. Money and control.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Eeep, my comment ran so long I’ve decided to turn it into a blog post. Thanks for getting me thinking and writing Shelly! I’ll leave all my thoughts here anyway 🙂
    tldr; I’ve had great experiences with public schools, but I seem to be in the minority on this. We’re being pushed on by the system with no check or balance to push back with. I think we should contact our representatives, and seek change.

    In principle I agree with you that the truancy laws should be repealed. I have the luxury of living in a state where it requires a minimum of effort to setup, and maintain a home school, so the general need for repealing these laws isn’t as urgent here. I’m saddened that your experience with the bomb threat was as totalitarian as it was. I think that was ridiculous behavior on the part of your school.

    On the other side of the coin, I’ve had experiences that run askance of the compulsory schooling stories I’ve heard lately. First, as a kid I was public schooled. I’ve been informed that my data points are old and rusty, and don’t apply to today’s world, but here they are anyway. My parents routinely took me out of school for a week or so at a time to travel to work-related conferences with them. It was a great experience to get to see the country, and learn about other regions. My teachers simply sent the next week’s worth of homework along with me, and off we went. We did have attendance awards, and no, I never won any of those. Heck, since I routinely became distracted by things on my walk to school, I never even won the not-tardy award. Somehow my self esteem survived.

    Having had this experience in school, I assumed that the same privileges would be attendant to my childrens’ school lives. Most of my friends and family informed that such would not be the case. They told me the entire gamut of “you have to follow the rules” tales. So, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I approached my kid’s teacher with a request to pull her out of school one Friday afternoon. I explained that we had a writers’ lunch we attended once a month on Friday afternoons, and that I thought it was a valuable experience for us both. I was slightly amazed when the teacher mirrored my school experience rather than the stories I’d heard. She smiled, said that that sounded great, and set about working with me to figure out the time of day that I could most easily collect the kid without distracting the rest of the class.

    But what about all the counterexamples to my experience?
    I think all the counterexamples I’ve heard are very important. They need to be aired, and things need to be changed. In our democratic society, built on checks and balances, we’ve removed a key check: the consent of those being educated. I’ve recently read Peter Gray’s excellent book about democratic schools, as well as several blog posts on the rights of kids. They all point out one key point that seems to have been forgotten. What is it about being under 18 that puts you outside the constitutional protections enjoyed by the rest of society?

    I believe we’ve had several generations of kids who were told they had to attend school or face legal consequences. This flew under the radar, I think, because they were kids. The issue we now face is that those kids are now adults, (we’re them, they’re us), and not too surprisingly the same system is now telling us that we face legal consequences if our kids don’t attend school. Also not surprisingly, having accepted the system throughout our childhood, we’re not always immediately inclined to buck it.

    So, getting back to checks and balances. What better check for the education system could there be than the parents’ ability to pull their kids out if it’s not suitable? I’m not even discussing homeschooling yet. Referring back to the post on readheadmom8: if you feel a school isn’t safe, of course you should be able to pull your kids out until such time as it is.

    So, what now?
    I’ve been very privileged. I went to excellent schools that allowed my parents to take me out whenever we wanted. My kid briefly attended a school that had the same policies. Now, we homeschool. However, there are several/many/a-whole-bunch of schools where this is not the case. I think we should let our administrators know this isn’t OK.

    With all the political upheavals going on lately, I’ve heard that it’s far more effective to call your representatives than to write them. They have to hire staff to answer their phones which is a visible cost. What if our local home schooling groups setup call lists to ring up their representatives on a weekly or even daily basis. What if we included other families in our neighborhoods as well? How much of a ruckus could we make?

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Thanks. This is very interesting! I did not homeschool my older son. He went to private Christian high-school. Not all private Christian schools are good such because they’re Christian. But at my son’s school they had a prayer ministry that met weekly to walk and prayer over the school grounds and the students. I am convinced with all we hear about with schools today that prayer ministry keeps that campus safe.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi! This post really reflects some of my problems with public school. I’m in Texas and my son is three years old, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about his future schooling and just can’t imagine putting him in, as you stated, a potentially precarious situation. I was sexually assaulted twice in daycare at 4 years old (fondling) and again in first or second grade when a group of boys at recess dragged me to a far spot in the yard and were groping me. No adults came to my rescue or even noticed what was happening, and the one time that I did tell an adult, I was laughed off. Not to even mention the daily gropings and one attempted rape I dealt with in junior high, in addition to bullying and verbal assaults. I feel extreme anxiety at the thought of putting my sweet little son in a place like that, where the adults in charge are not REALLY in charge, nor do they really care. His safety is MY responsibility and I feel that I would be remiss, no, almost criminally negligent, by sending him out somewhere unprotected by ME. So, we’ve decided to homeschool/unschool, and indeed are doing it already, because isn’t that just LIFE?

    Another thing I just realized is that we’ve only had about three generations in “public school” in general. I obviously went, my parents went, my grandparents went (probably not for all 12 years), but before that?? It’s possible that my great-grandparents went to “school” in the late 1800s, but that situation would look absolutely nothing like the schools of today, if they even did go. I come from a long line of farmers, so it’s more likely that they were taught AT HOME (Gasp?!) It’s seems like people today think that public schools have always been around and there’s no other way to learn. Anyway, it seems to me that if something is not working, you should change it. So being that schools today are producing graduates that are nowhere near as “learned” as my grandparents (not to mention the safety failures), I just don’t see why I should participate in that failing system. Thank God I have a choice and opportunity to do that, as I realize that a lot of people can’t.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am so sorry you had to go through that. And you are at such an advantage making the decision to homeschool early. Unfortunately, many of my kids did spend some time in school before I came to my senses. And I have written about what you mentioned- compulsory schooling not being around forever like people think and how the government needs to stay out of education. That’s why in my profile I do admit to ranting a bit about public school…I do it at least twice a month!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this post. I agree, and come at the issue from another angle: in college I mentored girls at Department of Juvenile Justice, many of whom were in there for truancy. It made me so sad to see them living in a state correctional facility for something like that. Now I know this is a complex issue and that law was originally created to help children, but I felt like the consequence for many of these girls did way more harm than good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve worked in both public schools and private schools. I think the problem with school violence and truancy comes from the abdication of parents from involvement in their children’s lives. All too often parents bring their kids to school hoping that the institution can ‘fix’ their kids. In reality, the problem started when the child grew up with no boundaries at home. Maybe we need to restrict childbirth instead of enforce truancy laws. (I say this tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a multi-faceted problem and the blame can’t be laid in any one sector’s court).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, but I think the entire institution of compulsory school may have been a start to this problem. Before compulsory schooling, family was central. Now, unfortunately, the schools have taken over many of the roles of the parents, so the actual parents have gotten lazy and started believing the adage about the village raising their child.


  7. On the other hand, there are lots of at risk children who would and do benefit from being in school. I’ve been homeschooling for 19 years, but I would not want to suddenly change the law so that parents no longer have to educate their children in SOME WAY. Get rid of truancy laws, and you’ll be giving addicts permission to flake out on ever having their kids attend school.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. There are no easy answers, but I do know that the parents of many of these kids would still send their kids to school even if it were not compulsory just to get them out of their hair. Children do need protection from less than decent parents, but I’m not sure that compulsory school is the answer. It reminds me of in school (oddly enough) when an entire class gets punished for the bad behavior of a few students. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It’s definitely something to think about.


  8. What an interesting concept. Unfortunately I don’t think you could abolish truancy laws without reworking the whole system and even then you must consider the children with unfit parents…. it’s a slippery slope. Still a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I went to public school, I attended quite a few “good” schools because we moved a lot. In kindergarten a classmate brought in a knife and cut a hole in my sweater sleeve. In 6th grade my fellow classmates were having sex in the bathroom. In 7th grade a boy told the principal that his friend was planning on bringing a gun in and shooting everyone wearing red. I had on a red shirt and shoes that day. In 8th grade someone’s grandmother called in to report a bomb threat. We were evacuated when half the school was at lunch and my friend was bawling because she couldn’t find her twin sister in the chaos. In 11th grade there was another gun threat and since I drove myself to school by then I decided to ditch.
    I know everyone says these things are uncommon, but my experience proves different.
    The sandy hook shooting happened when I was pregnant with my first.
    I can’t imagine sending my kids to a public school, I’m so thankful that I can homeschool them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a lot of people are under the mentality of “OUR school is okay,” but it’s not until something happens that they’ll realize that things can happen ANYWHERE- even their kids’ schools.


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