As practice Juvenile Defense Attorneys well know, the offense of Failure to Attend School is used often by schools and Justice of the Peace Courts all over Texas. It also causes numerous headaches for parents, especially those of high school age students. Whether in Austin, Williamson County, Hays County, Caldwell County, Bell County, Burnet County, or anywhere else in Central Texas, this is offense has come to plague parents and become an all too-common cause of calls to a Juvenile Defense Lawyer.
High School students have more and more activities these days and school administrators’ zero-tolerance policies mean less and less effort to verify whether the student was actually absent and whether the reasons for the absence were legitimate. Add to that parental efforts to place more responsibility on to the shoulders of older teens to keep track of their own schedules and the policy of many schools to count a certain number of tardies (showing up to class a few minutes late) as an unexcused absence, and you have a recipe for serious problems.
It is true that the crime of Failure to Attend School is a Class C misdemeanor, a fine only offense. However, parents with juvenile children found guilty of this crime may themselves face prosecution for contributing to their child’s non-compliance with attendance regulations. Further, such an offense can have an impact on other records of the child, including, at some schools, creating problems with graduation and transcript transfer to colleges and universities.
So, the latest Texas Attorney General Opinion on this issue presents good news for many parents and juveniles. The Opinion, which can be read here (https://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinions/opinions/50abbott/op/2012/htm/ga0946.htm), states that when schools enact compulsory attendance as allowed under section 25.085 of the Texas Education Code, an amendment made to a different section of that code prevents them from prosecuting students 18 years old or older for this offense.
Thus, high school seniors preparing to head off to college or to a job, can now rest easy that this often used, and sometimes abused, finable offense will not hinder their graduation or the completion of their school records.
If you and your child are having difficulty with a school based on an accusation by a teacher, administrator, fellow student, or School Resource Officer (school cop) that your child engaged in delinquent or criminal conduct, please contact John C. Prezas as soon as possible. The sooner you call, the sooner he can begin preparing an Intelligent Defense.