How long do I have to stay in school? (compulsory attendance laws)
“Illiteracy is an enduring disability. . . .The inability to read and write will handicap the individual each and every day of his life.” [U.S. Supreme Court, Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982)]
The laws differ in every state as to the ages for compulsory school attendance. You can call any school or district office to find out what′s required where you live.
If you stop going to school before graduating from high school, you can still earn your diploma. Once you′re out of school for six months, you′re eligible to enroll in a GED (Graduate Equivalency Diploma) program. When you pass the test and receive your diploma, you′ll be able to continue with your education or return to it at a later date.
The law doesn′t mandate that you attend a mainstream high school. If your interests lie elsewhere, or your study habits require something other than six hours a day in a classroom, other programs are available. Look into a trade school or vocational program in your area.
If a student wants to drop out of North High School in Denver, Colorado, the school requires the student and his or her parents to sign a certificate that says: “The undersigned guardian and student accept full responsibility for the listed student being a high school dropout. By signing this disclaimer, I realize that I will not have the necessary skills to survive in the twenty-first century.” Most students choose to remain in school and participate in counseling or tutoring programs.
Some states have increased the minimum level of education to the twelfth grade. Other states are considering suspending driver′s licenses for teens who don′t go to school. Generally, you can stay in high school until you graduate. You′re not excluded, for example, if you′re a sophomore at age eighteen or nineteen. Some states set a maximum age for regular school attendance at twenty-one.
To get high school dropouts involved in education, communities have developed a variety of nontraditional programs. Some help teens with substance abuse issues, while others address teen parenthood or delinquency problems.
Project Challenge is a quasimilitary federal program sponsored by the National Guard. It′s currently in operation in fifteen states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma,Virginia, and West Virginia.
Project Challenge presents a blend of classroom study, community service, and physical training in a seventeen-month program for sixteen- and seventeen- year-old dropouts who are drug-free and not involved with the court.
On the lighter side:
- Although California allows kids under 12 one free admission day at citrus fruit fairs, don′t make it a school day. It will be counted against you as an unexcused absence.
- Living on an island isn′t considered a good enough excuse for missing a day of school in Massachusetts. Transportation will be provided for you so you don′t miss any days.
If you′re pregnant or have children, you may either finish high school at your regular school, or the district may have a special program for teen mothers. Check with your school counselor for more details.
The National and Community Service Act provides another opportunity to help pay for an education or job training. The program is designed for young people who aren′t in school, and have limited English language skills or are homeless or in foster care.You must be between ages sixteen and twenty-five to be considered eligible. Members perform community service work and are paid an allowance of up to $125 per month during the first year. During the second year, members receive up to $200 per month. Check with a high school counselor or your local youth services bureau for information on how to apply.
Can your parents get in trouble if you miss school?
In May, 2008, Brian Gegner of Ohio was sentenced to 180 days in jail for failing to keep his daughter in school. Brittany was 18 and had been ordered by the court to get her GED with the help of her father. The court gave her nine months to accomplish the task but she missed the deadline and her dad went to jail!
“You cannot drop out of school and into a good job. If you quit on school, you’re quiting on yourself and your country.” President Barack Obama, Sept. 8, 2009.
“I didn’t finish high school, only went through the 10th grade. There is never a day that comes up that I don’t regret not finishing school. If I’d gone to school, I might have gotten a degree in computers or, maybe, music.” -Blues legend B.B. King.