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California PC 270.1 (a): Truancy Law in California

PC 270.1 California

California Penal Code section 270.1 (PC 270.1) states, “A parent or guardian of a pupil of six years of age or more who is in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 8, inclusive, and who is subject to compulsory full-time education or compulsory continuation education, whose child is a chronic truant as defined in Section 48263.6 of the Education Code, who has failed to reasonably supervise and encourage the pupil’s school attendance, and who has been offered language accessible support services to address the pupil’s truancy, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Is It a Crime to Let My Child Skip School?

Under some circumstances, parents can indeed face criminal charges if their child repeatedly does not attend school. In order for truancies to be a crime, there are 4 requirements that must be met:

  1. The child is at least 6 years old and in a grade between 1-8
  2. The child is a full-time student or continuing student
  3. The parent/guardian failed to reasonably supervise the child’s attendance
  4. The child was a “chronic truant,” meaning that they had unexcused absences for at least 10% of the days in the school year.

What Are the Punishments for Violating PC 270.1?

PC 270.1 is a misdemeanor crime in California, and can earn you:

  • Up to 1 year in a county jail
  • A maximum fine of $2,000

How Can I Defend Myself if I Am Wrongfully Accused of Letting My Child Skip School?

Crimes involving truancies require many elements to be satisfied, which means that there are many possible defenses to a violation of PC 270.1. Some of these include:

  • You reasonably supervised your child’s attendance
  • Your child was not a chronic truant
  • Your child was not within the required age or grade range

It is only a crime for your child to be repeatedly absent from school if you did not reasonably supervise your child’s attendance. In a case where a parent took reasonable steps to make sure their child attended school, they could not be charged with violating PC 270.1.

Example: A mother drives her 8th-grade son to and from school every single day. Her child frequently waits for his mother to drive off, and then skips school, only to return to be picked up. The child also makes sure to pick up any phone call from the school that notifies his mother of his truancies.

In this example, the mother would not be in violation of the law because she took reasonable steps to make sure her son attended school (driving him to and from school). She was only unable to monitor his attendance because she was not receiving any notifications about his absences.

It may have also been the case that your child was not actually a “chronic truant.” This means that they must miss at least 10% of school days in a year. Beware that this does not mean a year must pass, as the 10% of days absent can be reached before. But, in the case that someone is charged because of only one or a few absences, they would not be in violation of PC 270.1.

Lastly, only children in grades 1-8 who are at least 6 years old can qualify for violating the law. It may be the case that your child was not yet 6 years old when the absences occurred, or that they were absent in high school. Either way, they must fall within the age and grade ranges.

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