Can a child legally just stop going to school? Is there a minimum age/minimum grade to complete?

Asked over 5 years ago - Oak Harbor, WA

I know an 18 year old girl who has not completed a single year of high school. She was enrolled for the first three years and always just stopped attending, resulting in a failure to that grade. She is a foster child and has been since age 15. Doesn't the state OWE it to the child to ensure an education? She is not developmentally delayed and is actually quite bright. I am just wondering is it legal for the foster family to have just let her not go to school and is the state liable for this? If kids are truant they and their parents are punished, but what about this situation? She did not get her GED either and has not enrolled in ANY form of education.

Attorney answers (1)

  1. Lana Lea Traynor

    Contributor Level 10

    Answered . While I cannot give legal advice to a non-client, I can offer the following general comments about education law.

    (a) I assume that the child in question was attending a public high school at some point. Schools have a legal duty to "child find" students who may have a disability and be in need of special services. (A very bright child can have a disability that impacts his/her ability to access his/her education, e.g., attending school is an issue.) That duty falls on the schools.

    (b) In Washington State, attendance at school (or registering a student as a "home school" student) is "mandatory" from the age of 8 to 18. (There are a few exceptions to this blanket rule, but nothing in the scenario above makes me think that the student fits any of those exceptions.)

    (c) This fact pattern crosses over into another area of law - one that deals with foster children and the relationship between foster children/foster parents and the State of Washington. While that area is outside my realm of education law, common sense seems to suggest that foster parents (and the State) have a duty to ensure a foster student attends school. And, if there are barriers to that student attending school, then those issues need to be dealt with.

    (d) Truancy laws would apply throughout her high school years, but she is 18 now.

    You don't state whether the 18-year old is willing to go back to school, or pursue a GED or vocational training, etc., but not all is lost. There's still time to get help for her, if she wants to accept that help. Is that a possibility? If so, then I think that she has several options available, but would need more information.

    Lana Traynor
    www.traynorlawfirm.com

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