Did you know any parent of a student in Illinois could go face jail time for knowingly letting a child (ages 6-17) be absent without a valid reason?

Surely one would assume this Illinois law would only be enforced if it were a problematic amount of absent days but the law requires a student to miss no more than 5% of the average school year or about nine days. Beyond that, according to state law, you can be charged "with a Class C misdemeanor in Illinois, which can result in either 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both."

So what qualifies as an excused absence?

  • Illness.
  • Observance of a religious holiday.
  • Death in the immediate family.
  • Family emergency.

Keep in mind, the previous 180 school days count for this truancy law even if a student is just beginning a new school year.

Because absences are based on the previous 180 regular attendance days, and not the current school year, it’s possible that a child could be in violation of the law in the first few days of a new school year.

In order to be marked "present" for the entire school day, a student must be at school for 300 minutes and not be five minutes tardy. The tardiness will be marked as though they only attended half of the day.

A few times being tardy can quickly add up, according to illinoispolicy.org,

That means if your child is five minutes late 18 times in a school year, you could go to jail, even though your child would have missed only 90 minutes of school and likely little to no instructional time.

Playing devil's advocate, I have to believe there must be a reason for the student's tardiness or attendance issues. Are there transportation problems? Is there a health problem with an adult at home? Is something beyond control happening at home that doesn't fall into the "excused absence" category? And I'm not supporting excessive truancy but I do wonder if even more problems would occur for a student if their parent or guardian is incarcerated because of their child's school attendance.

You can read more about Illinois' truancy laws here.


JB Love is ½ of  Q98.5's Lil Zim & JB In The Morning, weekday mornings from 5:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.