E-Learning and Truancy: What You Need to Know Before It’s Too Late

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Many parents are concerned about sending their kids back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. What happens if you keep your kids at home? At what point is your child considered truant? Is the law the same school to school? Can I be fined as a parent? Can my ex-spouse use this against me for custody?
​Ohio Revised Codes 2151.011 and 3321 lays out the rules and definitions of truancy. A child may be reported as habitually truant if they have an unexcused absence for:
  • 30 or more consecutive hours
  • 42 or more hours in one school month, or
  • 72 or more hours in a school year.

As you approach these limits set by Ohio Law your school will often give parents written notification and require any absence be excused going forward. 

So what makes an absence “excused”? Schools often define “excused absences” as circumstances like:

  • quarantine with a doctor’s excuse
  • illness with a doctor’s excuse
  • death of a relative (up to 3 days)
  • college visit (up to 3 days)
  • observation of religious holidays (with notification)

If the case is brought before a judge, parents can be fined or even lose residential custody of their child. Attorney Darren Meade has even seen children placed in foster care because of truancy.

“Typically, these cases also have underlying family conditions such as drug-use or physical abuse in the home. Keep in mind that judges tend to me more lenient if the situation has been resolved. The charges may even be dropped by the Prosecutors office before it even gets to court,” says Attorney Darren Meade. “Although charges may be refiled next school year if the problem persists.”

Many schools have not yet decided how they will track children who are choosing the virtual learning track. Some may require them to attend virtual meetings via Zoom or Google Classroom. Be prepared. Read your school’s attendance policy. Create a plan with your family and be sure to include other non-custodial parents.

If your child is going to be absent- communicate with your school. Provide documentation for any absence(s) which may be viewed as excused to insure the lowest number of unexcused absences.

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