Attending school is required for children aged 6 through 16 in New Jersey. If you or your child has a history of not attending or missing school, your entire family can face hardships and consequences. This can potentially lead to jail time or juvenile charges – including charges for both the child and the parent. If your family is struggling with truancy issues and is facing repercussions from the courts, contact an attorney today.
Any time you potentially face jail or fines for crimes or other offenses in New Jersey, it is important to have an attorney examine your case. The Atlantic County truancy lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those charged with crimes and other offenses throughout Atlantic County and the surrounding areas. To schedule a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
How Many Unexcused Absences Are Allowed in NJ?
Each school district on New Jersey is responsible for its own definition of “unexcused absences” and for limiting the number of excused and unexcused absences a child can face before disciplinary action is taken. At the state level, the primary law defining how much time a child can spend away from school is N.J.S.A. § 18A:38-28. This statute merely states that it becomes a problem when the child is “repeatedly absent from school,” but does not go into further definitions or limits.
What is Truancy in New Jersey?
New Jersey’s truancy statute defines truancy in a number of ways. Not only is it considered truancy to miss too many days of school, but it is also truancy if you are caught outside of school during school hours. Obviously, there are exceptions for when a parent must take their child to a doctor’s appointment, when the child is sick, and in other scenarios, but if the child is out of school without permission or an excuse, they could be found truant.
Specifically, under the terms of N.J.S.A. § 18A:28-28, there are actually 6 ways to be found “truant,” many of which seem very different from the commonly understood definition:
- Missing too much school
- Being caught outside of school during school hours while a parent is unable to return you to school
- Being “incorrigible”
- Being “actually vagrant” (i.e., homeless)
- Being “vicious”
- Being “immoral in conduct”
Many of these are strange, vague, broad definitions which give the authorities wide latitude to declare a child truant and intervene. Violating any of these rules means you can be “deemed a juvenile delinquent,” facing juvenile charges in the juvenile justice system and potentially resulting in penalties including fines, probation, supervision, community service, and participation in programs. Serious truancy may even result in being sent to a juvenile detention facility.
Penalties for Parents of Truant Children
If your child misses too much school or repeatedly skips school, you have a legal responsibility to get them back to school. However, fulfilling this duty can be incredibly difficult in many situations, especially where your child is older or has behavioral or mental health issues that make it difficult to get them to go to school. Regardless of the reason your child is absent, you could actually face penalties for your child’s truancy as well.
N.J.S.A. § 18A:38-31 considers parents or guardians of truant children to be “disorderly persons.” This means they could be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which carries the potential penalties of $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail. However, this statute sets the maximum fine for the first offense at $25 and a max of $100 for any subsequent offense. There is no contemplation of jail time in the statute, but the general rules for disorderly persons offenses may still allow this.
Can You Be Arrested for Truancy?
New Jersey law allows both truant children and their parents to be arrested for skipping or missing too much school. Under N.J.S.A. § 18A:38-28, an “attendance officer” can personally arrest a child or call the police for help arresting the child. When they do so, they should take the child home and return them to the parent or take them straight to school – not to jail. This can be done with or without a warrant.
A parent can also be arrested for their child’s truancy. In many cases, a court summons will be issued to address your disorderly persons charge and fines if your child is truant. If you do not respond to this, a judge may issue a warrant for your arrest and your child’s arrest to get you to appear in court.
If you find that your child is truant, and you receive a court summons, it is vital to talk to an attorney and address the allegations as ordered to avoid a warrant. If there is a warrant for your arrest, talk to an attorney about your case immediately.
Atlantic County Lawyer for Truancy and Juvenile Delinquency Offering Free Consultations
If you are a student who has missed or skipped school too many times, or you are the parent of such a child, consider talking to our Atlantic County truancy and juvenile delinquency lawyers today. To schedule a free consultation on your case for help understanding your rights, requirements, and options, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.