Recent studies[1]highlight the issue of chronic truancy in recent years: as one journalist quipped, “In order for young people to do better in school, it helps if they actually are in school.”[2]School districts are particularly divergent in how to reduce truancy rates. Some have elected to give away gift cards (Dallas, Cincinatti), iPads (DeSoto, Texas), major league baseball tickets (Kansas City, Houston), and even cars (Dallas-Fort Worth area).[3]Other school districts, however, seek to hit parents and students where it really hurts: their wallets and through court involvement.

Punishments for Chronic Truancy

One of my previous posts highlighted the prevalence of chronic truancy in the New Britain public school system. The newly-hired superintendent of schools, Kelt Cooper, has proposed “monetary penalties to get the job [of ending high truancy rates] done. A plan to fine students to the tune of $75 per skipped school day is now being considered by New Britain council members.”[4]This practice is used both nationwide, such as in Los Angeles ($20 per offense)[5]and the State of Ohio (up to $500, seventy hours community service, or both).[6]

One school district had such a severe fine – $300 per violation – which led to $27,000 owed by one parent alone (and $17,000 by his child), prompting a federal lawsuit.[7]Other school districts have implemented even more drastic measures. One California mother was recently sentenced to 180 days in jail, after repeated warnings from the school district about her children’s combined absence rate in excess of 10% of the school year.[8]Earlier this year, a Texas honor roll student “spent 24 hours in jail… for missing too much school.”[9]

Parental Obligation in Connecticut

In Connecticut, parents have the legal obligation to make sure that their children either attend a public school or receive comparable instruction elsewhere. In addition, it is the parent’s responsibility “to contact the school office when their child is absent from school and provide a reason for the absence if they want the absence to be excused.”[10]

However, once a child is identified as being truant, the school district will attempt to meet with the parent to determine the cause of the truancy. However, if the parent either fails to attend this meeting or is otherwise uncooperative, the school district has the statutory authority to seek Superior Court involvement and refer the family as one with service needs.[11]In addition, the school district may impose a $25 fine for each school day missed by the student.[12]

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Taking an active role in ensuring your child’s regular school attendance is not only required by law, but also necessary to maximize your child’s educational and occupational opportunities. If you have any questions regarding truancy, school discipline, or other education law matters, it is imperative that you seek counsel with an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, CT at (203) 221-3100 or at

[1]See, e.g., “New Britain Schools Targeting Kindergarten Truants,” by the Associated Press. September 10, 2012:,0,6088612.story; and “‘Chronically Absent’ Students Skew School Data, Study Finds, Citing Parents’ Role,” by Richard Pérez-Peña. May 17, 2012:

[2]“Should Kids Be Fined If They Skip School?” by Brad Tuttle. August 23, 2012:

[3]“Students Snag Free Sneakers, iPads, Gift Cards, Cars – Just for Showing Up at School,” by Brad Tuttle. August 20, 2012:

[4]See Footnote 2.

[5]“Los Angeles ends big fines, limits enforcement of truancy law,” by Susan Ferriss. February 22, 2012:

[6]“Parents Must Take Responsibility for Truant Students” Q&A, by the Ohio State Bar Association. [7]“PA School District Sued Over Truancy Fines,” by Marc Levy. January 20, 2011:,0,4679930.story

[8]“California mom Lorraine Cuevas gets 180 days in jail for not sending kids to school,” by Michael Walsh. October 3, 2012:

[9]“Texas honor student thrown in jail for missing school,” by the New York Daily News. May 26, 2012:

[11]Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-149(a).

[12]Connecticut General Statutes § 10-185.