In Illinois, If Your Kid Misses Too Much School, You Could Go To Jail
Remember in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Principal Rooney called up Katie Bueller, Ferris' mom, to inform him that Ferris had been absent from school nine times so far that year? Nine times. Granted Katie didn't remember him being sick nine times, but in fairness to her, it's because he wasn't sick. He was skipping school. She really needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Rooney had it right there in front of him on the computer.
You see, Katie could be on the hook for Ferris' nine absences, if he wasn't actually sick... since he wasn't actually sick, which we all know. Illinois law states that a child can miss no more than five percent of the school year's 180 regular attendance days, or nine days. It's pure coincidence it worked out like that, because it was 10 percent until 2011, 27 years AFTER Ferris Bueller was released in theatres.
This law states an absence can be excused on the grounds of illness, religious observance, or death in the immediate family. That all makes sense. That's legit. But if the parent knowingly lets their child miss school for reasons other than that, and the child subsequently misses over nine days of school, the parent could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a 30 day jail sentence, a $500 fine, or both.
What's more, is the clock doesn't reset at the start of every year. It's last 180 regular attendance days. So let's say, hypothetically, you went on a big family vacation in April, pulling the kid out school for five days. And then the kid misses another five days in October. That's 10 days in a 180 day stretch. Not in the same school year. Depending on what grades they're in, possibly not even the same school. But that's still truancy.
And according to illinoispolicy.org, it's really easy to get marked as absent. "For a student to be counted present for the entire day, they must be there for at least 300 minutes. If a school day is 305 minutes and they are five minutes tardy, they miss a half day."
So like, let's say you got a flat tire on your way to dropping the kid off at school. You were already running on a tight schedule and this set you back 20 minutes. Kid's 20 minutes late. Now he's missed half a day. Two months later, different parent, different car, flat tire again, now the kid is just six minutes late, and boom, absent half a day, and now there's a whole day against him.
Not for nothing, wouldn't slapping a family with a $500 fine, or worse, throwing a working parent into jail for 30 days, make the absence problem worse? I know our school workers are overworked and underpaid, but wouldn't it be more beneficial for the student to figure out why all the absences or tardys, and try to fix THAT problem?
Luckily instead of a car like he asked for, Ferris got a computer. So while Principal Rooney saw that he was absent nine times, yes NINE TIMES... Ferris is now down to only two absences. So Katie should be good. I don't think either of them were born under a bad sign.