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What Is Truancy? | California Truancy Laws

Law Office of Katie Walsh
What Is Truancy? | California Truancy Laws

In California, public education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 18. The only exceptions to this law are homeschooled children, private school students or those with special needs. Children who miss too much school – and their parents or legal guardians – are breaking the law.

Learn how our state defines truancy and the potential consequences for you and your family if kids keep skipping school.

Is Skipping School Illegal?

It’s reasonable to keep a child home from school if they are sick, they have a health care appointment or there is a death in your immediate family. However, if a child is absent from school without a valid reason, California’s Education Code defines it as truancy. In California, public school students are truant if they have any combination of the following:

  • Three unexcused absences
  • Three unexcused tardies
  • Three absences exceeding 30 minutes

Students who miss 10% of the school year or are tardy on five or more occasions are chronically truant. Many students were involuntarily truant amid pandemic-related school closures because they lacked the internet access and other technology to participate in online learning.

Consequences of Truancy for Parents and Children

Truancy brings various possible consequences, including juvenile court in the most severe cases. The primary goal of California’s truancy laws is not to punish students and their families, but rather to encourage children to stay in school and get the benefits of public education so they can succeed in life.

California school districts have some leeway in determining how to handle student truancy cases. Typical consequences for truant students are:

  • Referral to the district’s School Attendance and Review Board
  • Compulsory meetings among the student, parents, and school officials
  • Counseling with required proof of attendance and completion
  • Attending classes to make up for the learning loss
  • Suspension of a student’s driving privileges

Parents of public-school students have a legal responsibility to send their children to school. You may face fines and criminal charges if you allow a child to skip school or otherwise fail to promote the value of education. If a judge finds you contributed to your child’s truancy, they may order you to pay fines of up to $2,500 and spend as much as a year in jail.

How Can an Attorney Help You?

If your family is facing charges for a truancy-related crime, you may find navigating the juvenile justice system is stressful and confusing. As an experienced juvenile defense attorney, Katie Walsh has handled thousands of cases and is an expert in school discipline. She will serve as an advocate for your family, standing by your side and helping prevent problems that might arise later in life when a minor has a criminal record.

Schedule a complimentary consultation to learn more about how we will prioritize your family’s best interests and work toward a result that will preserve your child’s future. For your convenience, we have offices in Tustin and Newport Beach, California.

Client Reviews

I hired attorney Katie Walsh to help my son when he was found with a large amount of drugs on school campus. She got us through the Expulsion Hearing, and miraculously he can go back to school at the winter semester...

AR- parent of minor client

I hired Katie Walsh to have my felony convictions expunged. She was able to expunge my record within 6 weeks of me giving her all the information. Even though technically I had a probation violation, and therefore the...

AR, criminal client

My 16 year old son was charged with possession of Marijuana, HS 11357(b). I was very concerned about what would happen to him and how this would affect his future. I contacted Ms. Walsh and she assured me that everything...

CT, parent of juvenile client

My child was charged with Felony Penal Code 597(a)- Animal Cruelty. After hiring Katie Walsh, she got the charges reduced to a misdemeanor, counseling, and 40 hours of chores at home. We come back in 6 months and the...

DH - Parent of Juvenile client

I hired Katie Walsh to represent my son on sexual abuse allegations- P.C. 288(a) and P.C. 288(b)- they were Strike Charges. After negotiating with the D.A., she got all the strike charges dismissed, and got my son...

DR- mother of juvenile client

Katie Walsh was fantastic throughout this entire process! My 13 year old son was charged with two counts of lewd act on a minor, PC 288(a) and was in juvenile hall. After hiring Ms. Walsh, she GOT MY SON OUT OF JAIL and...

EG, parent of juvenile client

My 14 year old son was arrested at school for P.C. 311 (child pornography). My son had innocent and stupid nude pictures of himself and friends on his phone. Ms. Walsh was extremely easy to talk to, and made my son feel...

GK,TK, parents of juvenile client

Ms. Walsh was a life saver when I didn't know what was going on, or how to handle the situation. My young daughter was attacked at her middle school and was seriously injured. At a time when both the school and the...

HA, mother of 13 year old Victim Rights client

I hired Katie Walsh to seal my juvenile record of PC 288(a) (lewd act on a minor), after my request had been denied by a Judge and by the Probation Department. After speaking with Probation, the DA and the Judge at a...

JW, former juvenile client

I was charged with a Felony Conspiracy charge- PC 182. After hiring Ms. Walsh she got my charged reduced to a misdemeanor right away, and now I just have to do community service and in 6 months my entire case will be...

KP, juvenile client

Ms. Walsh was like a breath of fresh air throughout this entire process. I was uncertain about the outcome, but she told me everything would be ok- and it was. She had my juvenile record sealed within 3 months of...

LR, former juvenile client

Ms. Walsh got the judge to terminate my son's probation and seal his 2 juvenile cases (Penal Code 288(a) and Penal Code 242) even though he had violated my probation by picking up a new case. By getting his record sealed...

MB- mother of juvenile client

At a very difficult time in my life I contacted attorney Katie Walsh. I am a teacher and was being harassed/stalked by a parent at my school. I wanted a Restraining Order against this person. Ms. Walsh listened to me...

MB, restraining order client

My son was charged with Lewd Conduct, P.C. 647 out of Downey, CA. After hiring Ms. Walsh, she spoke with the District Attorney, Probation, and the Judge. Even though the judge was not pleased with the offer, she was able...

MG, parent of minor

It is with sincere gratitude that I send this recommendation As a parent of a child that was arrested on a Felony Domestic Abuse charge and over 2000 miles away I had to rely on friend of a friends word that you would...

MPF, mother of criminal client

I really liked having Ms. Walsh as my attorney. She visited me in Juvenile Hall. I was charged with four counts of Robbery (Penal Code 211). This was my 8th juvenile petition. Ms. Walsh got 2 of the robbery charges...

MU, juvenile client

I was arrested for a felony Domestic charge, PC 273.5(a). After I hired Katie Walsh, my entire case was dismissed. I never had to appear in court. I felt very comfortable with Ms. Walsh- she was easy to speak with...

NF, criminal client

Katie was instrumental in helping me with a criminal matter as an advocate for me and my children when I was a named victim in a DV case. She patiently and expediently addressed all of my questions and was an invaluable...


My daughter was pulled over arrested for having a Fake ID. After hiring Ms. Walsh my daughter did not have to plead guilty- which would have affected her license status. She did community service, completed a legal...


My 14 year old daughter was involved in an assault and battery- PC 240/242, in Irvine. After hiring Katie Walsh the case was not referred to Court. My daughter was able to complete a class and the case will be dismissed...

SG, mother a juvenile client

My son was charged with possession of Child Pornography P.C. 311.11(a) - a charge I did not realize a child could be guilty of! As parents were beside ourselves when we found this out, and contacted Katie Walsh. She...

SH- mother of juvenile client

From San Diego I contacted Ms. Walsh about sealing my juvenile record in Orange County regarding a Petty Theft charge. She was always very responsive to any of my questions, and consistently kept me updated. Even though...

XL, juvenile client

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