When Can You Drop Out of School in Ohio?

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
Students in Ohio can’t legally drop out of school until they turn 18.

Under Ohio's “compulsory education” laws, children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend full-time school until they graduate from high school. But there are some exceptions. Below is a summary of the state’s requirements for staying in school, dropping out, and getting high school equivalency diplomas.

Requirements for Dropping Out Legally

Students in Ohio are required to stay in school until they turn 18 or get their diploma. Unlike many other states, Ohio doesn’t allow younger students to drop out if they have their parents’ permission or meet other requirements. However, students as young as 14 can go to school part time if they’re working legally and have a certificate from the state. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3321.01-3321.03, 3321.08, 3331.01-3331.10.)

Exemptions from the School Requirement

Students in Ohio may attend a homeschool (with a qualified teacher) instead of a regular classroom. Some children don’t have to attend school if their mental or physical condition doesn’t permit it. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3321.04.)

The Costs of Dropping Out

Dropping out of school is likely to bring financial costs down the road. But dropouts in Ohio could face more immediate consequences. When students who are younger than 18 officially withdraw from school without graduating or transferring to another school, the school will notify the local juvenile judge and the registrar of motor vehicles. Dropouts will automatically have their driver’s licenses or permits suspended (or won’t be able to get new licenses) until they return to school, turn 18, or get a high school equivalency certificate. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3321.13.)

Of course, many students just stop going to school without withdrawing, or they start down the dropout path by piling up unexcused absences. In that case, they may have to participate in truancy intervention programs or face juvenile court proceedings. (Learn more about what happens to truants and their parents in Ohio.)

High School Equivalence Diplomas

Dropouts who’ve officially withdrawn from school can obtain a certificate of high school equivalence if they pass one of the equivalency tests offered in Ohio. Generally, you have to be at least 18 to take the test, but 16- and 17-year-olds can also apply if they have written approval from their parent or a court official.

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