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Has your kid ever missed a day or two of school to go on a family vacation? Maybe you just couldn’t squeeze the whole trip into a school break, or the prices (and crowds) were significantly less if you shifted your travel dates by a couple of days. While we try very hard to not have our kids miss more than a couple days of school per year, I’m most certainly ‘guilty as charged’ when it comes to having my kids miss a day here or there to travel.
However, if you live in England, missing school comes with fines that are quite common and that can reach pretty staggering numbers. In fact, in Lancashire County (located just Northwest of Manchester), the County Council is trialing a system that moves from the current fixed penalty notice of £60 – £120 per parent per child for unauthorized absences (such as for family vacations), to a penalty of up to £1,000 per parent per child (approx. $1,300). Again, once you trigger a penalty notice with five or more missed days, these fines are per parent and per child, meaning that a family with two parents and several children would be hit with a much larger post-vacay bill than a single parent with one child.
“All mums in England are handcuffed to the school calendar for vacations once children turn 4, which is why I traveled so much during my maternity leave,” TPG‘s UK family travel contributor Kathleen Kristiansen said. “Even taking the Friday before school vacation can put you in the bad books with the school, facing potential expulsion even at public schools. While the penalty at the moment is relatively low compared to the potential cost savings, there is a lot of shame if your child misses school, particularly if you attend a highly rated one.”
In England, these are not fines just sitting on the books but actually are frequently levied. In the 2016 – 2017 school year, Lancashire issued 6,876 fines to parents for unauthorized school absences, the highest rate in England. However, some counties in England issue virtually no fines at all.
Penalties for missing school isn’t just an issue for families across the pond. In the US, many states also have fines for truancy on the books — and this can even include jail time for parents in states where truancy is a criminal matter. The specifics on truancy and unexcused absences vary (widely) across the nation. In Texas, the tenth unexcused absence in six months can trigger a $100 fine for the first offense, increasing to a maximum of $500. Until recent years, truancy was considered a criminal matter in Texas, and there were parents who went to jail as a result of their children missing school.
Out west in California, the bar for triggering a truancy report is quite strict by national standards. Per the California Department of Education rules, truancy is defined as missing just 30-minutes of a school day three times in a school year. On the fourth such occurrence, a $100 fine can be issued, with the amount increasing with subsequent violations, up to $2,000 or one year in county jail.
If your family is considering a discretionary trip during the school year, regardless of where you live, get to know your local school attendance policies (both written and real world applications). In many US locations, missing a day or two a year for travel won’t raise any red flags for an otherwise ‘good’ student, but don’t make any assumptions that could land you and your kiddos in hot water with the school district as policies can and do vary.
Featured image by Thomas Barwick / Getty Images.
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