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Compulsory Attendance Age Increased
On May 18, 2009, Governor Bob Riley signed into law Senate Bill 334, raising the compulsory school attendance age for all students in Alabama from 16 to 17 years old. Students of any age who have completed high school graduation requirements for public schools are eligible for an exemption from further attendance. Presumably, this exemption would include not only public school students but also students in other educational settings if they were taught the public school curriculum. Alabama recognizes four means of meeting the compulsory attendance requirements: public school, private school, church school, and private tutor. The statutory law of Alabama contains no express provision for homeschooling.
Sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (3rd District), the new law affects all students receiving home instruction through enrollment in a church school. These students must continue attending school until age 17, even after completing their school’s graduation requirements, unless the school adheres to the public school curriculum for completing high school. Home School Legal Defense Association is not aware of any church school whose course of study for completing high school is the same as that of the public schools.
Prior law provided that a child attending a church school was exempt from the compulsory attendance requirements, so long as he was enrolled in a church school and his parent or guardian filed a church school enrollment form with the local public school superintendent. This was really no exemption from school attendance because the child had to attend a church school in order to get the so-called exemption. He was not free to withdraw from school and pursue other interests. Senator Orr’s bill muddies the water even more by inserting language that limits the so-called exemption to a child “prior to attaining his or her 16th birthday.” The result is that every child 16 and over is no longer entitled to the exemption from compulsory attendance by attending a church school. But since it never was really an exemption in the first place, the new language appears to have no practical consequence.
The new law will go into effect beginning with the upcoming 2009–10 school year.