As a parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure your child gets an education. Failing to make sure your child gets an education is a form of abuse called educational neglect.
What is Educational Neglect?
Every state and school district has different standards for when a child must legally begin to attend school and when they can drop out without legal repercussions against the parents. Parents are legally responsible for ensuring their children attend school while children are still under their control.
Children missing an excessive amount of school is considered educational neglect. Most schools flag children who miss more than 20 days of school within a consecutive year, or miss more than 7 unexcused days in a row. Regardless of whether or not those absences were excused or unexcused, your child’s school may have to legally report you to CPS for those excessive absences.
If your child does have to miss school for a day, or an extended period of time, you must call the school to report it. As long as your child is “under your control,” meaning they live with you or you have primary custody of them, you must ensure they attend school.
Commonly, children ages 7 to 17 must have some form of education that parents must provide for their kids. Parents fail to ensure their children attend or neglect their other educational needs can face:
- Ordered actions to attend school with the child
- Attend parenting classes
- Community service
- Ordered Counseling and other social services
Parents of chronically absent kids often receive notices about their child’s truancy. If your child has excessive absences or tardies, the school will normally intervene before they report the neglect to CPS.
What Are Excessive Absences?
Even just missing one day of school can make children feel like they’re falling behind. To stop this, many school districts and states have outlined their own specific guidelines on what’s considered “excessive absences.” Even if the absences are excused, a school will still look into the child flagged with their standard of excessive absences.
There isn’t always an exact number of absences, however, there is normally a protocol for how a school district will handle suspicions of neglect. Parents who do commit educational neglect often have other issues which may contribute to kids missing school. For instance, one case found a 15-year-old boy missing school to take care of his younger siblings while his mom worked. The sudden change happened because the father had just left, making childcare unaffordable for the family. Most school districts will investigate excessive absences and notify parents before filing a report to CPS.
This intervention will determine the extent of what CPS must address. Any information or background which explains the excessive and unexcused absences is considered in the report. CPS report details may include:
- If the parent has contributed to excessive absences
- Any background or reasoning for the excessive absences
- If the parent failed to effectively address the excessive absences after school intervention
- If the absences have affected the child’s education
This helps CPS determine if a parent has neglected their child’s educational rights and needs.
Also Read: 5 Things CPS Looks For In A Home Visit
What To Do If Your Child’s School Files A CPS Report
CPS is legally required to investigate every report that’s made. They do this to ensure the safety of every child, even if the report is false. Your child’s school is also responsible for reporting educational neglect to CPS if there are excessive absences- excused or unexcused. Excused absences can include:
- Sick days
- Medical appointments
- Religious holidays not within the regular school’s calendar
- Family emergencies
- Pre-approved educational absences
- Pre-approved family vacations or leave
Other educational disruptions such as homelessness, hospitalizations, or other extreme social disruptions are also considered excused. If your family is under extreme circumstances that can cause issues with your child’s attendance, contact your child’s school.
There can be a number of reasons why your child might be missing school. For instance, kids with chronic physical and mental health conditions commonly miss more school than their peers. Other factors such as socioeconomic and cultural differences also factor into a child’s chronic absenteeism. If you’re having issues, speak with your social worker and your child’s school to develop a plan of action for your child’s excessive absences.
However, even with your best efforts to try and develop a plan with your social worker and school, you can still have your child taken away. This may not be because an unethical CPS worker is discriminating against you or the report is making claims in bad faith.
Can You Sue A School For Calling CPS?
In order for a school to report educational neglect to CPS, they need reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect. In this case, if your child has missed an excessive amount of school, your child’s absences would be the “reasonable cause.”
Child protection laws grant reporters legal immunity if a report was made “in good faith,” and will protect a reporter’s identity. However, if the reporter has lied, or made misleading claims, CPS will open an investigation on the individual. You can also take legal action against reporters or the school if:
- The report was made in bad faith, this is considered a felony
- You weren’t given notice of your child’s excessive absences
- The absences were excused and known by the school
- You’ve taken active steps to stop the absences
To find out more on whether or not you have a case, call My Case Helper to speak to a family lawyer. Our partners can offer legal advice on your CPS investigation.
What To Do If You’re Under A Neglect Investigation
Almost half of the reported child abuse cases begin as educational neglect. Neglect can mean a parent has failed to provide basic needs for their children. This form of abuse neglects a child’s basic needs from housing to personal hygiene. These issues are often a result of poverty, addiction, or other issues within the family.
If your family has had issues and you’ve regretfully neglected your children, call a lawyer. A lawyer can help you take steps towards getting custody of your children back from CPS. One mistake shouldn’t mean you lose your children forever. There are ways you, your lawyer, and social worker can help you fight to get your children back.