Every child in the U.S. has a right to education and a responsibility to attend school. A truant is a person who is absent from school without permission or an excuse when he is required to attend school by law. This article will explore whether you can be a truant at 18, the legal age of adulthood for other rights and responsibilities.
Compulsory, or required, education for children first became law in Massachusetts in the 1850s. Today, U.S. law requires that a child must now attend school (or be home-schooled), and the government must provide free and appropriate education to all children. Though all children must receive an education, the grade level of required education still varies state by state, as does the age that you are considered a truant if you do not attend school.
The age that students are required to attend school also varies by state. In some states, a child is required to attend school from the time she is 5 or 6. In other states, a child might have to begin school only before she turns 8. At the same time, some states require school attendance through the age of 16, 17, 18 or even older if a student does not graduate.
Each state has its own definition for the number of days of school a student must miss, unexcused, to be considered a truant. Regardless of specific state rules, the act of missing/skipping school that results in truancy has been linked to societal problems such as loitering, vandalism, theft, substance abuse and gangs, among others. It also affects a student's academic success and graduation rates, and not graduating from school may often result in lower pay and other problems.
If you have a certain number of unexcused absences in school in a state that requires school attendance through age 18 or older, you may be considered a truant at age 18. Check your local and state laws. Attend school when you are required to attend school.
Truancy is a serious problem. You might want to consider other alternatives to skipping school so that you can receive a high school diploma. These include home-schooling, attending an alternative or adult school, and studying for a GED or a State Proficiency Exam.
A former newspaper columnist and college writing instructor, Cameron Banks is the award-winning author of numerous non-fiction books for adults and young people, web and print feature articles, and essays. Banks attended Northwestern University and lives with her family in southern California.