In Tennessee, school attendance is mandatory from age 6 through age 17, but graduation is not mandatory. According to the Tennessee Code Annotated, §49-6-3007, a student who misses three days “without adequate excuse” is considered truant, and school officials may call in law enforcement officials, after warning the parents. However, you may legally drop out upon reaching age 18, even without graduating; Tennessee also provides other exceptions that permit students with disabilities and some other students age 16 or 17 to drop out of school.

No More School Days

A student with disabilities may drop out if a physician certifies that she is physically unable to carry out school duties, according to the Tennessee Board of Education’s explanation of state law, §49-6-3005. In addition, older teenagers may legally drop out if the school considers them a disruption and if school staff believe that further education will not benefit them. For 17-year-olds, this procedure is fairly simple, requiring only the director of the local school board to make the final decision about permitting the student to stop attending school. Sixteen-year-old students may also drop out, but the process is more complex, requiring a series of meetings between parents and school staff, initiated by the family’s filing a Compulsory School Attendance Exemption Form. On the form, your parents must state why you are "not benefiting from school.” If you are 17 and pursuing a General Equivalency Degree, or GED, you may legally stop attending school; this, however, is not technically “dropping out,” as you would be working toward an alternative degree.

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