When Your Child Refuses to Go to School

  • Make sure you speak respectfully and with authority as you help your child get back into a school routine.
  • Have your child evaluated for anxiety, depression or bullying issues. Follow through with professional treatment.
  • Set up a meeting with teachers, school counselor, your child and yourself. Write out a plan. Have everyone sign it.
  • Set up a written reward contract for a reward to be given as soon as your child is picked up at the end of the school day. (Cell phones, computers and video games are privileges, not parental obligations. All electronics need to be charging in parent’s room at night.)
  • Set up e-mail or other daily communication with all your child’s teachers. Don’t expect your discouraged child to be completely open and honest.
  • Change who drives your child to school. Leave 10 min. earlier.
  • Print out Parents Legal Guide to Public Schools in your county. Highlight truancy passages. Have your child read and sign those paragraphs.
  • Let your child know about legal consequences of truancy, i.e., arrest, or suspension, restriction or delay of driving privileges (Section 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code) or permanent records that may inhibit college acceptance or other employment opportunities. After a fourth truancy a child can be made a ward of the court and sentenced to community service and court-approved truancy prevention programs.
  • Do not call in or write excuses for your child. Let them take the consequences given by the school. Do not re-punish at home.
  • Celebrate small victories. Let your child know you believe in them.
  • If one parent is more strict and one more concerned about the child’s emotional well-being, find a written compromise or seek therapy. Do not let your child overhear you arguing about them.
  • Be kind to yourself and your partner, children naturally try to divide to gain power. It’s a normal part of growing up and hard on parents. This doesn’t last forever.
  • Model for your child how to handle difficult feelings and ambivalence gracefully.

A student is truant after missing, or being more than 30 min. late for 3 days during a school year, without valid excuses. After this, in a public school, the student is reported to the attendance supervisor or the superintendent of the school district. After one conference has been attempted with parents, the child is considered Habitually Truant. A Habitual Truant is then referred to SARB who can report the child to the District Attorney or Probation Officer. The child may then be arrested, or returned to the school, parents or youth center if they don’t go to school. The school may then direct the parents to bring the child to school. Whether the child is in private or public school, fines of $100 for first offense, $250 for second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses can be levied on parents if they do not get the child to school.