What Can a Parent Do About a Teen Who Refuses to Attend School?

By Jonae Fredericks
School districts take truancy very seriously.
School districts take truancy very seriously.

Truancy, or the illegal absence from school, is a serious matter, and for the parent of a teen who refuses to attend school, every day can bring a new challenge. In most cases, there is an underlying cause for the truancy, especially if there is a lack of stability in the home or poor parenting skills. Whatever the reason, if a teen is under the legal dropout age for her state, attending school is not a choice.

State Minimum

The laws in each state vary when it comes to how old a teen must be before he can legally quit school. According to the Georgia State University website, all states in the U.S. have either a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old dropout age. A student who is younger than the dropout age in his state must attend school for the required amount of days, per year, per state mandate -- it’s the responsibility of the parent to make sure he gets there.


Public school districts require school-aged students to attend a set amount of school days every year. While excused absences do not count against a student’s attendance record, unexcused absences in excess of the amount appropriated by the school render a student truant. Schools have an obligation to report such truancy to the juvenile court in their district. According to the U.S. Department of Justice website, parents of an out-of-control teen who refuses to go to school can file their own petition with the juvenile court asking for intervention.

Truancy Intervention Programs

Once a juvenile court intervenes, the truancy is out of the hands of the parents and into the hands of the law. The majority of truant teens must enter a truancy intervention program as ordered by their juvenile court. The teen is then assigned a case manager. The teen will undergo a psychological evaluation and assessment, after which an educational intervention plan will be set in place. The National Conference on Safe Schools website explains that, along with the specified education plan, the teen and her parents may need to attend counseling. The case manager will make periodic home visits and school visits for the duration of the educational intervention plan. Teens who do not follow the rules set into place by the court face further repercussions.

Raising the Dropout Age

Legislation is getting tougher on teens looking to end their school careers early. In fact, some states, such as Montana, are introducing bills that raise the dropout age from 16 to 18. The theory is that by legally raising the age, more teens will lawfully have no choice but to participate in some form of school environment until they complete graduation, bettering their chances of obtaining work with reasonable wages later on.

About the Author

Jonae Fredericks started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jonae Fredericks is a certified paraeducator, presently working in the public education system.