Pennsylvania Truancy Attorney
Overview of Pennsylvania Truancy Law
Truancy is the act of a child being absent from school without a lawful excuse. Truancy is penalized criminally in Pennsylvania. Truancy is graded as a summary offense. If cited for a truancy violation, you and your child must appear before a Magisterial District Judge. The court will most likely hold you, the parent, responsible for your child’s truant behavior - not the child. The penalties for truancy may involve fines, community service, parenting classes and incarceration. You should avoid a truancy conviction and prove to the court that you took every step to insure attendance of your child at school. This is one of the many defenses available to you at a truancy hearing.
Every child of compulsory school age must attend school in Pennsylvania. The compulsory school age is from 8-17 years old. However, once a child enters elementary school (above kindergarten) he or she must continue to attend school. There are exceptions to the compulsory school age requirement. See the exceptions listed in the footnote below: Pennsylvania School Code title 24: §13-1330 l.*
Once a child is absent from school three (3) days without lawful excuse, the school shall serve the parent with written notice of the absences. After being served with the written notice, the parent has three (3) days to comply with the truancy act. If the parent does not comply within 3 days, the school with bring a truancy prosecution against the parent.
What is a Valid Excuse for Not Attending School?
According to Pennsylvania Truancy law, certification from a licensed practitioner of the healing arts or satisfactory evidence must furnished to the school showing that the child in question is prevented from attending school on account of any mental, physical, or other urgent reason(s). The law mandates that the phrase “urgent reasons” be strictly construed and will not permit irregular attendance by your child.
Every parent, guardian, or person in parental relation of the child who is found guilty of truancy may be fined up to three hundred dollars ($300) and ordered pay court costs or be sentenced to complete a parenting education program for each unlawful absence. If the parent or guardian fails to comply with the judge’s order, he or she shall be sentenced to serve five (5) days in county jail. Parents or guardians may also be ordered to perform community service within the school district for a period not to exceed six (6) months.
If the parent shows that he or she took every reasonable step to insure attendance of the child at school, he or she shall not be convicted of a summary offense. In this situation, a child of compulsory school age who has attained the age of thirteen (13) years may be found guilty of a summary offense. He or she can be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding $300 for each offense or shall be assigned to an adjudication alternative program. The child’s driving privileges will also be suspended ninety (90) days for the first truancy offense and six (6) months for the second offense.
*Compulsory Attendance Exceptions – the compulsory attendance law shall not apply in the following situations:
- Your child is 16 years old and works while school is in session and holds an employment certificate issued by the state.
- Your child has been examined by a psychologist or approved mental clinic and is deemed to not benefit from further education.
- Your child is 15 years old and performs farm work on a permit issued by the school board.
- Your child is 14 years old and performs farm work on a permit and has completed the highest grade of elementary school available in schools in the area. This must be approved by the district superintendent or the principal of the private school where the child is enrolled.
- In rural areas where the population is less than 500 habitants to the square mile and the child resides more than two miles from the nearest public highways from any public and no free transportation is provided.
***This list is paraphrased and not all inclusive.***
It is important to retain a truancy defense attorney that is familiar with this area of law. Many attorneys may not be familiar with ins and outs of truancy law. As a former Assistant District Attorney in Chester County my duties involved researching, investigating and prosecuting truancy violations for the office. I worked with school district officials and school administration in prosecuting these cases. I am also a former teacher and formerly certified to teach in Pennsylvania.
Contact Jason R. Antoine, Truancy Defense Lawyer to schedule a free consultation if you or your child is facing a truancy violation. If you or your child have been found guilty of truancy at the magisterial district court, contact my office immediately. You have 30 days from the date of your conviction to appeal this violation. My office will defend truancy violations throughout most areas of eastern Pennsylvania.