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Change in Compulsory Attendance Law

A mere two weeks after Senator Rodger Smitherman introduced Senate Bill 16, the state legislature, moving with extraordinary speed, considered and enacted this change to the compulsory attendance law. The new law states that “[e]ach child who is enrolled in a public school shall be subject to the attendance and truancy provisions of [the law].”

State law provides that children between ages 7 and 16 must attend school, so the new law will make younger and older children who are enrolled in public school subject to prosecution for truancy for unexcused absences.

Fortunately, the new law also provides that “any parent or parents, guardian or guardians who voluntarily enrolls [sic] their child in public school, who feels [sic] that it is in the best interest of that child shall have the right to withdraw the child at anytime [sic] prior to the current compulsory attendance age.”

This provision makes it clear that parents may disenroll their children from public school prior to the time they are seven years old and choose not to comply with the new compulsory attendance law. Home educators can thank Senator Albert Lipscomb, a home schooling father, for offering this favorable amendment to the bill.

After passing the Senate and House, S.B. 16 was forwarded to Governor Don Siegelman on November 29, 1999, and signed into law on December 9, 1999. – Dewitt T. Black