Under the “compulsory education” laws in Georgia, children between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school or a home study program until they graduate (although 16- and 17-year-old students must meet certain requirements before they can legally drop out of school). If they aren’t eligible to leave school, students who skip too many classes could end up in juvenile court. And parents who don’t make their kids go to school might be fined or even sent to jail.
Below is a summary of Georgia’s laws on school attendance, absences, and the responses to truancy. (Because laws can change any time, it’s always a good idea to check the current statute by using this search tool.)
Which Absences Are Excused?
Georgia largely allows local school districts to decide which reasons they'll allow for missing school. But the state does require schools to excuse absences for certain reasons (with parental permission), including:
- taking exams for military service
- visiting with a parent in the military who’s been called to duty or is on leave from overseas combat deployment
- attending sponsored military affairs events related to a parent's service in the military, and
- appearing for court proceedings related to the student’s foster care.
(Ga. Code §§ 20-2-690.1(b), 20-2-692.1, 20-2-692.2, 20-2-693.)
Penalties for Parents of Truant Students
Schools in Georgia will notify parents after their children have five unexcused absences in the same academic year. The notice should include information about the possible consequences of truancy. Parents (and children who are at least 10 years old) are supposed to sign a statement saying that they’re received this notice.
If the child has another unexcused absence after the notice is sent, the parents could face criminal charges for violating the compulsory education laws. The penalties for each offense include fines ($25 to $100), up to 30 days in jail, and/or community service. Every unexcused absence following the notice is a separate offense. (Ga. Code § 20-2-690.1(c).)
Legal Consequences for Truant Students
Georgia law doesn’t impose direct fines or other penalties on truant students. However, when a student misses another day after the first notice has gone out, the school will report the child to the juvenile court. Any student with 10 or more unexcused absences in the school year could ultimately come under the court’s supervision as a “child in need of services” and might end up in foster care or an institution. (Ga. Code §§ 15-11-2, 15-11-381, 20-2-701.)
Talking With a Lawyer
If the school has reported your child to the juvenile court for truancy, consider speaking with a lawyer. No matter where you are in the process, an attorney experienced in juvenile law should be able to explain how you can protect your child’s rights and the consequences of claiming that you can’t control your kid. And if you’re facing misdemeanor charges for violating Georgia’s compulsory education laws, you should seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney.