Is Truancy No Longer a Crime in Texas?
Children between the ages of six and eighteen are legally required to attend school consistently. Truancy, as defined in Texas, refers to a student's absence from school without a valid excuse for three days or more within a four-week period, or for 10 or more days within a six-month period. In this article, we will discuss the consequences of truancy, what parents can do to prevent truancy, and more.
Truancy Was Decriminalized in 2015
Historically, the consequences of truancy in Texas have been severe. Parents and students could face fines, community service, and even jail time. The severity of these penalties underscored the state's commitment to enforcing school attendance.
However, truancy was decriminalized in Texas in 2015, moving from being a criminal offense to a civil one. The reasons behind this change were manifold but primarily revolved around concerns that criminal charges were too harsh a penalty for school absences.
The effects of this change are multifaceted. On one hand, it reduces the potential legal repercussions for students and their parents. However, it also places a greater emphasis on schools to implement measures that encourage regular attendance. Schools are now required to implement truancy prevention measures before referring a student to truancy court.
Parents can still receive citations and must attend a court hearing if their child is considered truant. For each instance, parents may have to pay a $100 fine.
Texas Bills Under Review that Affect Truancy Penalties
In March 2023, Representative Harold Dutton introduced Bill HB 3931, which aims to offer school districts further support for getting students back in school and would increase the penalties for parents found responsible for their child’s truancy. Not only would the fine for such an offense be up to $500 but parents could face a Class C misdemeanor charge.
While fines can be waived if parents or children meet certain criteria, many people and advocacy groups (such as the ACLU of Texas, the Intercultural Development Research Association, and Texas Appleseed) are concerned about how this increase will impact low-income families. Advocacy groups have also expressed concern about how the bill will affect pregnant students and those with disabilities, as they are more likely to miss school.
What Parents Can Do to Prevent Truancy
The underlying causes of truancy can be complex and multifaceted. They might include bullying, academic struggles, or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Understanding these triggers is the first step toward addressing and preventing truancy.
Parents should look out for warning signs such as a sudden drop in grades, avoidance of school-related conversations, or regular complaints of feeling unwell on school days.To prevent truancy, parents can consider taking the following steps:
Reinforce the importance of going to school every day and make it a priority to ask about their school day. Knowing that you value their education can serve as motivation to attend and prioritize school.
Establish clear routines and expectations. Set consistent study and homework routines to help your child understand that education is a crucial part of their daily life.
Talk with your child about their school experience. If they express concerns or fears about school, address them seriously and promptly.
Maintain open communication with teachers and school administrators. If your child is showing signs of truancy, work with the school to develop a plan to address the issue. Many schools offer counseling services or can refer you to external resources. Community organizations and charities also provide support for families dealing with truancy.
The Link Between Truancy & Juvenile Delinquency
While truancy has been decriminalized, researchers have found a link between truancy and juvenile delinquency. Such research includes:
A multi-cohort study included in Safe Journals. This study on truancy offenders in the juvenile justice system indicates that truancy may be a precursor to more severe delinquent behaviors.
A research study included in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Their research suggests that truancy may act as a gateway to substance abuse, such as marijuana use. As of September 2023, weed is not legal for recreational use in Texas.
A Cambridge study on delinquent development. Their findings stressed the long-term effects of truancy on life outcomes, emphasizing the enduring impact of truancy on a child's future.
Experienced Criminal Defense Firm Handling Juvenile Cases
At The Clark Law Firm, we believe that everyone deserves a fair chance. With our legal expertise, we strive to protect the rights of juveniles and work towards the best possible case outcomes for them.
To learn more about how The Clark Law Firm can assist with juvenile criminal charges, please get in touch with us to arrange a consultation. Call (817) 435-4970.