Ask The Lawyer
Question: I’m planning to keep my son out of school on the day that President Obama is speaking to children via CNN and the Internet. I do not want my child to have to listen to the speech. If I take my child out of school on that day, does he have to be counted absent? Isn’t there some rule that states that a parent may take their child out of school for religious or political beliefs or something?
Answer: Education in Texas is regulated by the Texas Education Code. The Code sets forth laws regarding everything from a parent’s rights and duties regarding their child’s education to courses of study and graduation requirements. Title 2 of the Code, Public Education, Subtitle E, Students and Parents, Chapter 26 Parental Rights and Responsibilities covers what a parent may do with regarding keeping their child from a particular class or other school activities.
Section 26.010 states, “Exemption from instruction. A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity. A parent is not entitled to remove the parent’s child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test or to or to prevent the child from taking a subject for an entire semester.” Another key section goes on to state that a child is not exempt from satisfying grade level or graduation requirements in a manner that is acceptable to the school district.
It could be argued that a parent’s “moral beliefs” encompass their political beliefs and if an objection to a particular class or school activity centers on political beliefs then a parent may follow the instructions set forth in the Education Code for taking their child out of that class or activity. The request must be made in writing and “authorizing the removal of the child.”
A parent who keeps their child home for an entire school day for a one-hour activity violates the school’s policy on attendance. A child’s absence will not likely be excused if the child misses the entire school day.
The attendance of children in Texas schools also determines the State funding that the district receives, which is approximately $40 per day per student. A mass exodus of children on any given day could affect a district to the tune of thousands of missed Federal dollars that are used for educational programs. Any parent wanting to keep their child from participating in a particular activity should consider doing exactly what the statute requires; authorizing the school to remove the child from that class or activity for the actual time the objectionable activity takes place. One way to accomplish the parent’s goals and not interfere with the child’s attendance is to ask to have the child remain in school but engage in an alternate activity or class during the objectionable activity or class. And again, the request must be in writing and before the scheduled class or activity occurs. A child who notifies his teacher that he should not participate in a particular class or activity does not comply with the provisions of the Education Code, which the district is bound to follow.
Further, a written request is required each and every time a particular class or activity occurs that the parent chooses to keep their child from attending. A child may not miss an entire class or course under section 26.010, but only the portion that is objectionable.
On a final note, requesting that a child remain in school but engage in an alternate activity may lessen the total time missed from school and make certain that the child does not incur an absence. If a child is not present during the hour that each school designates as “absent” or “present” then the child will be counted as absent. Choosing to take one’s child out of school as detailed above is a parent’s right; however it does keep the child from being marked absent.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice. Direct questions to Ask the Law to firstname.lastname@example.org.