Truancy in Arizona
Truancy, or absenteeism, is the act of missing school without good reason. According to Arizona law in A.R.S. 15-802, all children between the ages of 6 and 16 years are mandated to attend an academic school where they learn, at a minimum, reading, grammar, math, social studies, and science. This can include public, private, charter, or home-schooling options. A child can only be excused from school if:
- They have a physical or mental condition that makes schooling impractical or inexpedient.
- They have successfully (per the state Board of Education) completed 10th grade early.
- They provide reasons that are acceptable to the school principal or their designee.
- They are over 14 years old and are employed in a lawful wage earning occupation with the consent of their parent/guardian.
- They are enrolled in a vocational or similar training program approved by the Department of Education.
- They were expelled or suspended without direction to enroll in alternative education.
- They are enrolled in an education program run by a state educational or other institution.
Parents/guardians who allow a child to become truant can be found guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor, which can land them with a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
Per A.R.S. 15-803, it is unlawful for a child between ages 6 and 16 to not attend school during normal school hours unless:
- The child was excused for one of the reasons listed above, according to A.R.S. 15-802.
- The child is accompanied by a parent or designated person.
- The child is home-schooled.
A child is considered truant when:
- They have an unexcused absence for at least one class period during the school day.
- They are not in attendance at school during normal school hours, except as allowed by statute.
- They are habitually truant if they have missed at least 5 school days within the school year.
Schools are permitted to utilize attendance officers, per A.R.S. 15-805. These officers can issue a citation to a child in violation of truancy laws or to their parent/guardian.
- Notice of citation by an attendance officer is sent to the court.
- Citations may also be issued on an Arizona traffic ticket and complaint form.
- Violation reports can be sent to local law enforcement for investigation.
- Attendance officers may enter anywhere children might be employed to investigate truancy.
Juvenile Penalties for Truancy
Children who are habitually truant can be deemed “incorrigible” (essentially unmanageable). According to A.R.S. 8-341, incorrigible juveniles are sent to juvenile court for adjudication, where they may be placed into the care of parents, family members, a reputable citizen, or a public or private agency, all under the supervision of a probation department. The court can also fine an incorrigible child up to $150.
Typically, truant children are sent to juvenile courts, as discussed earlier, however some schools and districts have implemented other methods of handling truancy through diversion.
Maricopa County’s Juvenile Probation Department initiated a CUTS (Court Unified Truancy Suppression) diversion program. Under this program, truancy is handled initially with pre-citation conferences and letters through the Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department but held at the child’s school. If there is no improvement, only then are students sent to a juvenile court hearing through Maricopa County Superior Court. At the hearing, the following sentences are possible:
- Mandated education classes to be attended by both the child and parent/guardian.
- Assigned work hours for the child.
- Assigned counseling for the child.
- A diversion fee of $50 for the parent/guardian.
- A class 3 misdemeanor charge for a parent/guardian who does not comply.
CUTS is only available for the first and second truancy offenses. Maricopa County juvenile courts do not have mandatory sentencing, making diversion programs like CUTS a helpful alternative to sentencing at a juvenile detention facility.
However, cities within the county can choose to handle truancy within their own limits.
For example, Scottsdale City Court is able to handle juvenile truancy cases. They also may choose to dismiss the charge within their court and re-file with the Maricopa County Juvenile Court. Should the truancy case be heard in Scottsdale City Court, the child may be sentenced to a city diversion program or be required to pay a fine, attend educational classes, or participate in community service, among others.
Kingman Municipal Court, in Mohave County, offers their own diversion program for truant students within Kingman Unified School District, with plans to expand to Lake Havasu City and Mohave Valley. This program works with Mohave County Juvenile Probation, the municipal and superior courts, and local counseling and law enforcement agencies to provide gift incentives to students (rewards) and requires them to complete assignments like essays and workbooks (sanctions) in order to prevent them obtaining a delinquency record or partake in future criminal activities.
While these incorrigible children will initially be sent through this diversion program, they can ultimately be referred to juvenile court for a hearing to determine if they need probation, juvenile detention, or other actions.
In Lake Havasu City, truant youths can be sent to Youth Court to participate in early intervention programs such as counseling and community services and restitution.
Schools in Flagstaff Unified School District in Coconino County have a laid out plan to handle truancy with early intervention followed by a juvenile court diversion program, found here. Schools will only notify the Deputy County Attorney after 4 truancies, after which students and parents will meet with the Student Attendance Review Team and the County Attorney’s office. Without improvement, the student will be referred directly to the Coconino County Attorney’s Office, which has its own juvenile court diversion program known as Project Attend. This program is designed to rehabilitate the student in conjunction with school officials and parents and avoid delinquent behavior.
It is imperative to realize that truancy can have legal consequences for both the child and their parent or guardian. As well, statistics show that chronic truancy can lead to additional juvenile delinquency, drug use, and an increased risk of criminal activity as an adult. If you are struggling with a truant child, reach out to your child’s school for additional methods of intervention. If you are facing criminal charges as a result of truancy, call Rideout Law Group.
RIDEOUT LAW GROUP
With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.
Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:
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At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.
Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.