The following will provide you with the pertinent laws and procedures regarding your child’s attendance at school. The first part of this section will describe the mandatory attendance requirements that the State of Connecticut requires students to adhere to and potential penalties if your child fails to meet these requirements. The second part of this section will provide you with basic information regarding how your child’s residency plays a role in where they may attend school. This section will further describe available hearing procedures if your child is determined to be an ineligible resident.
If there are any issues that may arise between yourself and the school district regarding your child’s school attendance or a dispute pertaining to the residency status of your child, please contact one of our attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C.
As a parent, you are responsible for ensuring that your child is regularly attending school. Attendance is basic to your child’s ability to obtain a proper education. Much of what your child learns is presented to them in the classroom setting. Your child’s daily attendance will expose them to other learning processes that will help them in continuing to grow and learn. Connecticut law states, “parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including the study of the town, state and federal governments.”
If your child is over the age of five (5) and under the age of eighteen (18) you must ensure that he or she attends public school regularly during the normal operating hours of the school district in which your child resides. If your child is a high school graduate or as a parent you are able to demonstrate that your child is receiving instruction in the appropriate studies equivalent to that taught in public school (e.g. homeschooling, private school) then your child will be excused from this mandatory attendance requirement. Please note, that if your child attends private school there are certain attendance requirements that will be discussed in further detail below.
Is my child permitted to withdraw from attending school?
As of July 1, 2011, and each school year thereafter, a parent or other person having control of a child who is at least seventeen (17) years of age, may consent to their child’s withdrawal from attending school. As a parent you must personally appear at your child’s school district’s office and sign a withdrawal form. The withdrawal form must also be signed by a guidance counselor or school administrator who is employed by your child’s school district indicating that you, the parent, were provided with information regarding educational options available in your child’s school system and the community.
If your child has voluntarily terminated his or her enrollment in school with your consent and subsequently seeks readmission, the board of education of your child’s school district may deny school accommodations to your child for up to ninety (90) school days following your child’s withdrawal, unless, your child seeks to be readmitted within ten (10) school days after his or her withdrawal. In this case, the school board must readmit your child within three (3) school days.
What is the maximum age at which I must enroll my child in school?
A parent has the option to exempt a child from attending school until the age of seven (7) provided the parent appears at the child’s school district’s office and sign an option to exempt form. The school district must provide you with information regarding the educational opportunities that would be available to your child if you were to enroll him or her in public school as early as the age of five (5). An option form must be signed for each year you decide not to enroll a child below the age of seven (7) in public school.
Is there a penalty for failing to comply with the mandatory attendance requirements?
Failure as a parent to comply with the requirement that your child attend public school (absent alternative means of instruction) is a violation of law. If your child fails to attend school as required you are subject to a fine not to exceed twenty-five (25) dollars per day. A penalty will not be imposed if it appears that your child is destitute of clothing suitable for attending school and as a parent you are unable to provide proper clothing for your child to attend school.
Am I responsible for the mandatory attendance requirements if my child attends private school?
As a parent you are still required to comply with the mandatory attendance laws set forth above if your child attends private school. Private schools must submit school attendance reports to the Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner of Education provides teachers and other school personnel at your child’s private school with the forms needed to establish compliance with the mandatory attendance provisions. If your child’s attendance reports are not satisfactory, a complaint may be filed in the Connecticut Superior Court by the superintendent of the school district in which you and your child reside.
What is a truant?
Your child may, on occasion, be excused from school for good reason, such as illness, where a written notice from your child’s doctor should be provided to the child’s school. Unexcused absences may violate the mandatory attendance laws.
Connecticut law defines a “truant” as a child age five (5) to eighteen (18) who is enrolled in public or private school and has four (4) unexcused absences from school in any one month or ten (10) unexcused absences from school in any one year. A “habitual truant” is a child between the ages of five (5) and eighteen (18) who is enrolled in private or public school and has twenty (20) unexcused absences within one school year. Cities and towns may adopt their own ordinances concerning children who are found on the streets or in other public places during school hours. The police may detain your child and return the child to school if he or she is found to be a habitual truant.
What are the policies and procedures my child’s school may adopt concerning truancy?
Your local board of education must adopt and implement policies and procedures concerning truants, which must include:
- The holding of a meeting with you and your truant child and appropriate school personnel to review and evaluate the reasons for your child’s truancy, provided such meeting is held no later than ten (10) school days after your child’s fourth unexcused absence in any month or tenth unexcused absence in a school year.
- Coordinating services with referrals of children to community agencies providing child and family services.
- Notifying you annually at the beginning of the school year and upon any enrollment during the school year, as a parent having control of a child enrolled in a public school grade from kindergarten to eight, in writing of the obligations you have as a parent.
- Obtaining from you annually at the beginning of the school year and upon any enrollment during the school year, as a parent of a child in a grade from kindergarten to eight, a telephone number or other means of contact.
- A system of monitoring individual unexcused absences of children in grades kindergarten to eight, ensuring that whenever a child fails to report to school on a regularly scheduled school day and no indication has been received by school personnel that you, the parent, are aware of his or her absence, that a reasonable effort is made by school personnel or volunteers under the direction of school personnel to notify you, by telephone.
What if as a parent or guardian I fail to comply with the school policies and procedures regarding truancy?
If a parent fails to attend a truancy meeting regarding your child’s truant status or cooperate with the school to attempt to solve he truancy problem, then the superintendent of your school district must file a written complaint with the Connecticut Superior Court.
The board of education overseeing your child’s school may appoint an individual or group of individuals authorized to prosecute violations of school attendance laws. The appointee is authorized to investigate the absence or irregular attendance of your child, to cause your child to attend school regularly if they are absent or irregularly in attendance and prosecute cases for violation of the mandatory attendance laws. These appointees will report their findings to your child’s school principal or superintendent, who based on these findings, may be required to file a written complaint in Connecticut Superior Court.
Our education law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with expulsion, discrimination, and general education law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best education law attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut or New York education issues today.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to an education law attorney about a pressing matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free consultations to all new clients.