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Another reason to be happy we are homeschooling is we no longer have to worry about the state of TX attendance and truancy laws.  I know not all sates are as strict, but I will be sharing the experiences from others who felt forced into homeschooling because of it…

In our zoned school after 3 excused days can be fined, after 5 excused can be referred to truancy court, mandatory referral after 3 unexcused or 10 total, and mandatory referral after 15 tardies.  If miss more than 10 days total could be denied credit and definitely will be denied credit if miss more than 18 days (means repeating that grade).  There is no flexibility within our zoned district nor a couple neighboring ones.  Daily fines are $30, truancy court fines start at $150, and criminal charges could also be pursued…

The charter school we attended was more flexible with the medical excused absences.  Our son hit 9 absences all due to strep throat caught from school (students were sent to school known to be sick–that is a whole different issue than this post)…  However, I know of several students dealing with cancer treatment who were sent to truancy court within our zoned district.  Thankfully the judges had brains and threw it out.  The school should have put the child under special education and issued homebound services…

The problem with the state and districts around us is being overly strict.   Family vacation are prohibited–they will be unexcused.  Only way to get a funeral to be considered excused is if bring back obituary, note from funeral home, and/or papers from hospital (not joking on this, know parents who had to do this).  We have met families who now home school because their children were not allowed excused absences for going on fossil digs (parents job) in other states & countries.  Other families had children that were not allowed excused absences for FFA.  I learned that schools only allow a very limited number of days (3) as excused for showing animals, but those that do it seriously and make it the Houston Rodeo need way more days than the district allows.  Others had run into issues with vacations, and not Disneyland vacations (although I know moms still in the district who lied about sickness to pull it off).  These families were taking guided vacations in the middle east and Africa and others were needed to go to their home country for extended time due to visas & passports.  Due to the lack of flexibility, parents resort to other tactics.   Some families lie, call in sick and bring back notes in attempt to get them recorded as excused.  The bigger trick is that parents withdraw their children and then re-enroll when they return.  I know personally at least 5 families who have done this repeatedly and when I worked in the schools I saw it done yearly.  All in the sake of avoiding the criminalizing of absences…

I know such policies are in place because historically TX has a low school attendance rate and because the state funding formula is tied to daily attendance.  However, this all leads to another trick parents do–pull their kids out after 10:30 am.  Kids are marked present for the day, no penalties…  This one is done even more frequently than the withdrawal trick…

http://www.districtadministration.com/article/texas-truancy-law-challenged goes into the detail on the truancy court side, the millions of dollars made by districts, and explaining how TX has the highest rate.  TX has higher truancy court cases than all other states added up….  There are several parent and social welfare groups still navigating the courts to try to stop the craziness…  http://texasappleseed.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=934&Itemid=  TX Appleseed group’s write up on this issue.

I just had to air this issue out there because other states are way more flexible with families!  I am floored at how many homeschooling families I have met that left public school because they found the attendance policy so inflexible that it combined with other issues sealed the deal on leaving.  And, we now view not having such policies over our head as another reason to be happy to homeschool.  If we would have been in our zoned district, our son would have been fined for 6 of his absences even though they were medically excused.  And of course, we now have the flexibility to travel when we want to.

Other states use common sense.  Don’t fine excused absences (especially medically noted ones), but instead work with the family on making up missed work or getting them assistance.  Private schools and other states allow family vacations as long as they don’t exceed 5 consecutive days and the student makes up all work & exams.  Some schools add on additional requirements.  Point is, family vacations can be educational and it is crazy to criminalize a family over on.

So why do I care, now that we homeschool?  Well, there are several homeschooling groups in TX that advocate for homeschooling families that get referred to a truancy officer.  Homeschools are considered private school but there are members in the community who call CPS or the police on homeschooling families in addition to daytime curfew laws in some parts of TX.  Several cases have made it into national news.  And many of them get tossed out of the courts, but its a hassle for the families who have to go through it.  Thus, even though we are not in public school anymore, implications of their attendance laws sometimes creep into the realm of homeschooling.  I however am documenting, despite TX not requiring it.  Thus, you can see my documentation page for what I do.

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