Truancy laws are a perversion of the parent-government relationship

Published January 9, 2018

American truancy laws have reversed the role of parent and government, and they have done so at an alarming rate.

“A student only needs to be 30 minutes late for school three times to be labeled a truant and have a letter sent home threatening their parents with prosecution,” The Sacramento Bee reported in October. “Being tagged a chronic truant — after missing 10 percent or more of the school year — could mean up to a $2,000 fine and jail time for parents or the student.”

What right does government have to tell you where your own child must be at any given moment? Even the title of the article — “Should parents be able to take their kids out of school without getting a truancy letter?” — is astounding. What kind of a question is that? “Should parents be able to take their kids —” Yes. Full stop.

Truancy laws exist in every state in our nation and require children between the ages of five and eight to attend school until they’re in high school (age requirements differ by state). Government knew when it first started passing these requirements it couldn’t force its citizens to do something without providing the service free of charge, so it created government schools and forced everyone to attend them. The only ones allowed to escape are those with the means to buy their children’s freedom by sending them to a private school. If you’re able to homeschool, you still must get permission from government to withdraw your child and do the job yourself, which is the opposite of how the relationship is supposed to work.

Our current system is the equivalent of the Anytime Fitness chain making it a rule, under penalty of incarceration, that everyone must go to the gym five days a week, and then scattering their gyms throughout the country and forcing a few hard-working taxpayers to pay for everyone’s memberships. No one would put up with such an absurd violation of their time, energy, or money, but that’s exactly what truancy laws are, only worse. At least forcing people to go to the gym carries with it minimal negative repercussions. Truancy laws put a group of bureaucrats with extreme, often preposterous, and sometimes dangerous belief systems in charge of kids’ mental development and their physical whereabouts.

It’s not a coincidence that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution did our Founding Fathers mention education. We know the “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” which makes the very existence of the U.S. Department of Education unsettling. And it’s worth noting the Constitution routinely speaks as though the government should be controlled by the people, not the other way around.

“Last year, Kim Berry was surprised to learn his daughter would receive a truancy letter from Carriage Drive Elementary School in Citrus Heights for attending his older daughter’s wedding in Arizona and then traveling to the Grand Canyon,” The Bee reported.

Berry told the Bee that he thought the trip would be a “great educational opportunity” for his third grader. The paper also noted that “Berry says it angers him that state officials think they know what is best for his child.”

I’d be angry, too. I am angry on parents’ behalf. What choice do they have, especially in a liberal state such as California, where there are few government school alternatives, but to comply with strangers essentially raising their kids for them? And it’s made even worse by the fact these strangers often hold beliefs contrary to those of the families they’re teaching and are sometimes committed to instilling those beliefs in the minds of families, many of which have no escape.

Parents made it a priority to educate their children long before government came along and mandated children be forced into the monopolistic government school system. Now, Big Brother has taken it upon himself to determine what a good excuse for being absent from government school is and isn’t — and in California, seeing the Grand Canyon just isn’t good enough, apparently.

[Originally Published at the Orange County Register]