What Is Truancy?

Parenting never gets any easier. Besides the immense social and financial expectations, you need to keep your child safe and motivate them to do well in school. On that front, sometimes even the best intentions aren’t enough, and families face challenges from chronic school absenteeism. The law attaches a scary word to it when a student repeatedly misses school without a proper excuse: truancy.

What is truancy under Nevada law, and what does it mean for students, parents and guardians, and school districts? The attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group in Las Vegas, Nevada, have compiled this guide to answer your questions about truancy and its consequences and when to seek legal advice.

What Is Truancy?

High school classroom with red desk chairs

The definition of truancy under Nevada law is broad: Any student absent from school without a proper written excuse is considered truant under Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 392, Section 130. This can happen even if the student misses only one period during the day.

Law enforcement officers in Nevada have the authority to detain truant students, although that doesn’t mean taking them to jail. Officers must either take the truant student back to school if school is in session or deliver them to their parents. If neither is possible, the student would be taken to a social services agency.

Common sense reasons for absences, such as medical appointments, don’t fall under the law. Parents or guardians must submit a proper excuse in writing within three days of an absence.

Why Does the Law Address Truancy?

School attendance in Nevada is mandatory for children between the ages of 7 and 18. The law on school truancy is an attempt to recognize that students can’t learn unless they attend classes. In an article on the subject, Nevada’s Department of Education (DOE) cites research that chronically absent students are more likely to drop out of school, leading to more significant problems for students, families, and society.

The article further shows that Nevada historically has had a significant problem with chronic absenteeism. It has been among the ten states with the highest chronic absenteeism rate over time, perhaps one in five students meeting that definition.

Students miss school for many reasons, according to the DOE, including ones unrelated to disciplinary issues. These include such matters as bullying, homelessness, transportation problems, health challenges, and undiagnosed disabilities. Making truancy a public policy matter helps the state collect data to address the issue.

What Are the Consequences of Truancy?

Missing one period or one day of school is enough to be deemed a truant, but it’s usually something students, and their families can straighten out with good communication with the school district. However, chronic absenteeism can become a broader legal, educational, and societal problem, and in some instances, it might require counsel from an attorney.

Under Nevada law, a student becomes a “habitual truant” if they’re declared absent without an acceptable excuse three times in a single year. In the following school year, students can draw the same designation as a habitual truant after just one unexcused absence.

As a habitual truant, a student may be referred to juvenile court, where they can be named as a “person under the need of supervision” and face the following penalties:

  • Fines of $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense.
  • Community service of eight to 16 hours after a first offense and 10 hours for a second offense, to be performed at the child’s school, if possible.
  • For students over 14, driver’s license suspensions of 30 days to six months for a first offense or up to one year for a second offense.
  • Delays in applying for driver’s licenses of 30 to 60 days, also for students over 14.

Note that the fines and other penalties can be suspended if the student attends school faithfully for a period of time.

Can Parents Be Punished for Student Truancy?

Unfortunately, parents and guardians sometimes contribute to the problem, either knowingly or unknowingly. The law includes penalties for caregivers shown to be encouraging or otherwise facilitating their child’s absenteeism. If evidence shows that a parent or guardian fails to take steps to ensure their children attend school, or if they’re shown to have made false or misleading statements in connection with attendance, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. Under Nevada law, a misdemeanor can carry penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Even unrelated parties can be held accountable for contributing to truancy issues. One example would be an employer who routinely schedules a child for work when they’re supposed to be in school. In these cases, the third party can be charged with abetting truancy, also a misdemeanor.

School officials have the authority to take action by visiting places of employment to ensure they’re following the law in connection with every student employed.

Parents should know that it’s not only the schools that can hold them accountable. The law allows any taxpayer, in addition to school district representatives, such as attendance officers or school boards, to file criminal complaints in the event of chronic truancy.

School districts face obligations under truancy laws, such as informing parents promptly of unexcused absences and taking action to provide counseling and other support. Schools, in some circumstances, may be required to refer a chronically absent student to child welfare authorities.

Should You Hire a Lawyer?

Given the potential consequences and the possibility that schools may sometimes use truancy to retaliate against students and families, obtaining counsel from an experienced truancy lawyer is a good idea. A qualified attorney will look at your case dispassionately, explain the law, identify any failures in how it was applied, and recommend a specific defense.

The attorneys at De Castroverde Law Group are experienced in truancy cases and can help you through this difficult time. Our attorneys can attend disciplinary or court hearings and offer spirited advocacy for your case, including seeking reduced charges and fines. Call our office today to learn more about how we can help.

Photo Credit: Classroom.jpg by Bryan McDonald is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0