Should Students Be Arrested for Skipping School?

Posted January 5, 2012 by

Photo of elisabeth

Parents can get in big trouble when their kids skip school, sometimes even facing fines and jail time themselves.  Recently in Florida, a law was passed that states that parents can go to jail for up to two months when their children (age 16 and under) skip school repeatedly, missing more than 15 days in one three-month period.

Now in Kentucky, lawmakers have decided to turn the tables: In the town of Covington, minor students can be arrested on misdemeanor charges for playing hooky — and if their parents are complicit, they can be taken in along with their kids.

The law was enacted on January 2, and police have been given instructions about school dismissal times and what procedures they should follow. Officers have an option of giving kids a warning, taking them home, or booking them if the child is suspended or has been expelled, and the parents can’t be reached. (Children who homeschool can carry a note from parents explaining their situation when they’re out during school hours so they don’t get in trouble with police.)

It seems like this is a case of “desperate times call for desperate measures” in this school district. Last year, there were 13,500 unexcused absences amongst a population of 4,000 kids who range in age from kindergarten to seniors in high school. The school lost about half a million dollars in state funding last year due to poor attendance.

I think that parents have the responsibility to do everything in their power to make sure their child attends school. I also know that many, many families out there are struggling with this issue. Parents write in to Empowering Parents frequently saying, “I’ve tried everything, but my kid won’t go to school — and now I face fines and might have to go to court to defend myself.”

For those parents, this Kentucky law makes a lot of sense. After all, how do you make your 16-year-old get up and go to school when they flat-out refuse?

What do you think? Are parents to blame when their children skip school, or should the kids be held accountable — or does the answer lie somewhere in the middle?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Popular on Empowering Parents

View Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

    @John M
    It’s unfortunate when the parent is given consequences for
    their child’s choices. This is a tough position to be in as a parent.  I’ve spoken with many
    parents in similar situations so you’re not alone. It may be helpful to find
    out about services in your area that may be able to offer you the help and
    support you need. The 211 Helpline would be able to give you information on
    legal aid services, educational advocates, and other supports. You can reach
    the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by going online to In the meantime, it may be beneficial to keep a written record of the
    steps you are taking to get your son to school, as Sara Bean suggests in her
    article Best of
    luck to you as you
    work through these challenges. Take care.

  2. Gigi Report

    you know I’m a student and I think students should get in trouble and not the parent ‘cos a majority of the time it is the students fault. and how can a parent know or stop them from skipping when maybe they have work in the morn’ and don’t see them go to school or they assume they do stay at school when they ride the bus there

  3. Lisa Report

    I’m pretty sure it’s the rare parent that sits back and does nothing, allowing their kid to skip school when ever they choose. Penalizing a parent that is already feeling pushed to the limits by a “difficult kid”, just seems wrong. In our case sending our son to jail for a stint might just be beneficial. However, I live in Oakville, Ontario, where, unfortunately, this is not an option.

    My son is 14 and has made a habbit of skipping (staying home from) school regularly over the past 3 years. He has always been a difficult kid, but now that he is 6 inches taller than I am, it’s a little hard to throw him over my shoulder…and no manner of consiquences seem to work; short of having him physically carried off to a military school, we’ve tried EVERYTHING. The school has been involved and helpful as much as they can, but truly, until he decides to change, nothing we do or say is going to get him there. Fortunately/unfortunately at this point, this is also the professional opinion of 2 psychiatrists and 2 psychologists, so we at least can tell the school that. For now I will continue to pray and trust that one day my very bright son will figure it out, and opt to be successful at something other than making his parents crazy.

  4. Simone Report

    I also live in Alberta, in Red Deer and I’m dealing with a 15 year old daughter who since going to high school is using the excuse that “everything is available everywhere”. I have recently found out that she has missed 64 classes since school started in September, she got into smoking, doing drugs, drinking, has been cutting for years, having sex with a 20 year old, etc…. and she is extremely manipulative. She “confessed” everything to me at the beginning of December, but I have no doubt she knew that I had already found out which is what prompted the confession and she said she wanted to change. She was good while they were out for Christmas break, but since going back this month, she has only been at school for 2 days. I had an agreement with the school that if she missed anymore time, she was supposed to get an in school suspension, which isn’t happening, and she has now run away from home and is staying with different friends. I think that if I could have her arrested and put in “jail” for a day or two, it might just be enough to curb the behaviour and get her back on track.

  5. anne Report

    My son skipped school a lot during his high school years and it took him an extra year to complete his high school education. He hated school, struggled with academics, and felt that he was a misfit. When he was at school, the teachers did not know what to do with him. We were often called in to deal with issues around his behavior at school. In fact most of our struggles with him were around school issues or stemmed from struggles with school. Struggles with school led to isues with self esteem. He did eventually graduate. Many of his peers did not. Since leaving school he has done much better. His self esteem is greatly improved and he has learned through successes in life that he is not stupid. Recently he ran in to a teacher who had labelled him lazy and incompetent and he told the teacher how he felt as a child when he was ridiculed in the classroom in front of peers for the struggles that he was having. Recently my son wrote me a card thanking me for always believing in him and being there for him as he struggled through his teen years. I do not support a system that would charge children and parents across the board with non attendance without addressing the issus that are keeping them away. My experience is that many of the parents of children who struggle in school also struggled in school themselves. Their negative experiences make it difficult for them to relate to the school authorities in a positive way and they often deal with the issues by avoidance.

  6. LCK Report

    This is why I’ve never understood the LAW?? Situations are different – it can be the parents fault or it can be the kids fault – it all comes down to the details – why should there be a law across the board? It’s ridiculous…in my situation my husband and I have tried EVERYTHING to get our two boys to attend school! Its a battle everyday – we are exhausted but were consistent with our expectations – the school has been of no help what so ever – I think if I was sent to jail for this I would end up going in for murder instead for the judge that would actually rule this in our situation.

    I have a question though – if the parents went to jail – what happens with the kids? maybe it’s worth the trip!

  7. Amy Report

    I live in Alberta, Canada and the laws here are very much similar in terms of the penalties for failure to send a child to school. Fines and jailtime however are indeed rare but thats not to say it has not happened. What happened with my own son is he was brought before an attendance panel which in Alberta is a division of the Court of Queens Bench. He developed a drug issue which interfered with his schooling thus leading to the attendance board meeting. They were highly proffessional and accomodating, and believed my son could do better. He owned up to his indiscretions, assured the board it would not continue. Unfortunately this was in November, it is now January, he has run away twice, continued using drugs and drinking, and skipping. The school knows me quite well and have been working with me consistantly. We meet again before the attendance board next week and there are some other options hopefully that they can make available, I will plead on my son’s behalf and offer solutions to a problem I cannot seem to fix.

  8. mrsjudys Report

    A STUDENT should bear the responsibility for not going to school if they are skipping. I had a foster daughter that I raised who I took to school every day. She walked in the door. 30 days later they sent me notice of expulsion due to how many days missed (most all of the 30) but never once notified me before that she was not in class. If a parent SENDS the child the parent should not be held accountable for the child skipping out. It’s the child who needs held accountable for their actions. If the parent is allowing it, not sending them etc. that’s another story



Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families