While California gives parents a certain degree of autonomy in raising their kids, state law also has minimum requirements to ensure children are adequately cared for—including meeting minimum education requirements.
Suppose a child in 8th grade or below misses more than 10 percent of school days, and the parent or guardian has not acted reasonably to ensure they're properly educated. In that case, the parent may be charged with failing to supervise the child's school attendance under Penal Code 270.1 PC.
Put simply; this law makes it a crime for parents or guardians to fail to provide reasonable supervision and enforcement of their child's school attendance. If you're charged with and convicted of this crime, you could be fined up to $2000 and sentenced to up to a year in jail.
PC 270.1 says, “(a) A parent or guardian of a pupil of six years of age or older in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 8, and who is subject to compulsory full-time education, whose child is a chronic truant as defined in Section 48263.6 of the Education Code, who failed to reasonably supervise and encourage the pupil's school attendance, and offered support services to address their truancy, is guilty of a misdemeanor crime, and may participate in the deferred entry of judgment program defined in subdivision (b).”
Subsection (4) says service referrals for parents or guardians can include case management, mental and physical health services, parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, child care, and housing.
Of note is that this statute says the child must be a “chronic truant.” This means they are absent from school, without a valid excuse, for 10% or more of the school days in one school year. Let's review this state-level law in more detail below.
Penal Code 270.1 PC Explained
Under California Penal Code 270.1, it is a crime for a parent or guardian to fail to provide reasonable supervision to ensure their child attends school regularly. To procure a conviction for this crime, prosecutors must demonstrate the following four key elements:
- You are the parent or guardian of a child aged six or older (Kindergarten through 8th-grade level);
- The child is legally subject to compulsory full-time or continuation education (meaning they are required to go to school);
- You failed to provide supervision for the child's attendance at school; and
- The child is designated a “chronic truant” under California Education Code 48263.6.
As noted, under California law, for a child to be considered a chronic truant, they must be absent more than 10 percent of school days for a school year without a valid excuse.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Tim is a single dad with a substance abuse problem. Tim's 6th-grade son consistently ditches school to hang with friends by the river. The school principal and the police have confronted Tim about his son's truancy problem, but because Tim is consistently under the influence, he does nothing to require or encourage his son to stay in school. Once Tim's son fails to attend school 10 percent of the time, Tim can be charged with a crime under PC 270.1.
EXAMPLE 2: Betty is having trouble with her belligerent 7th-grade daughter, Lisa. Despite her best efforts, Lisa continually plays hooky from school.
Betty drives her daughter to school every morning and watches her enter the building, but Lisa keeps ditching classes. Betty has even tried taking her to a personal tutor. Even if Lisa is labeled a chronic truant, Betty has a valid defense against criminal charges because she makes every reasonable effort to keep her daughter in school.
What About Homeschooling?
Parents and guardians who choose to homeschool their children are exempt from prosecution under Penal Code 270.1 PC as long as they adhere to California education laws regarding homeschooling, meaning they use a state-approved curriculum and impose a minimum amount of time on classwork.
In other words, homeschooled children are not “subject to compulsory full-time education” at a public or private school because they are educated by an alternative method.
What Are the Related Offenses?
- Penal Code 270 PC – failing to provide care (neglect);
- Penal Code 272 PC – contribute to the delinquency of a minor;
- Penal Code 273(a) – child endangerment;
- Penal Code 273d – child abuse.
What Are the PC 270.1 Penalties?
Penal Code 270.1 is considered a misdemeanor offense. You may be subject to a maximum fine of $2000 and no more than one year in county jail if you're convicted.
However, depending on the circumstances of your case, the judge has the latitude to impose either/both of the following in place of jail time:
- Summary probation: The judge may place you on informal probation for a specified length of time; or
- Deferred entry of judgment program: for qualified defendants, the judge may offer to defer entry of judgment if certain conditions are met—for example, you may be required to take a parenting class or attend a substance abuse treatment program. If you complete the requirement, the charges are dismissed.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
Suppose you are accused of violating Penal Code 270.1 for failing to supervise your child's school attendance. In that case, a qualified attorney can help develop an effective defense strategy drawing from various defenses. These defenses are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you employed reasonable supervision. One of the most common defenses is that even if your child doesn't attend school regularly, you have made reasonable efforts to ensure they do.
The law does not define what qualifies as “reasonable,” leaving that up to the judge or jury to decide—so your attorney may draw from a wide range of evidence to show that you were doing your best to keep your child in school.
Perhaps we can argue that the child is not a chronic truant. You can only be convicted under PC 270.1 if your child has missed more than 10 percent of school days in a year without a valid excuse, which is the benchmark for chronic truancy.
If your attorney can show that the child did not miss that many school days—or if they had a valid reason for missing school, such as illness—you might be able to get the charges dropped.
Perhaps we can argue that the child is not subject to compulsory full-time or continuation. For example, your child is homeschooled, and you're meeting the state requirements.
If you have been accused of violating Penal Code 270.1 PC, you can contact our law firm to review the case details and legal options. The California criminal defense lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP are in Los Angeles County. You can contact us via phone or fill out the contact form.