SB 115: Minimizing the Truancy Trap

This Bill failed the Senate 13-16.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

For the past few years, we have been pointing out through op-eds and interviews the problems with criminalizing parents for their children’s non-attendance at government schools and how many parents are charged with crimes from the truancy of their children in Utah.

Last year, Senator Al Jackson sought to reduce the severity of truancy laws to bring relief to families suffering under the bureaucracy of truancy law. Senate Bill 45 attempted to decriminalize truancy by eliminating the class B misdemeanor offenses for parents in the state’s compulsory education law. Though this bill was passed by both the House and the Senate, it failed to reach the Governor’s desk because the two bodies could not agree on a last minute amendment made to the bill.

Thankfully, Senator Jake Anderegg is sponsoring Senate Bill 115 this year which once again aims to repeal the class B misdemeanor.

Childhood education in our country has gone from private and optional to public and mandatory. However, schools were never intended—and are not equipped—to replace parents. School attendance choices are a parental responsibility. When government imposes criminal sanctions for non-attendance, it is implicitly claiming a right over parental roles that it does not—and should not—have. This bill helps restore the balance of power between parents and schools. Schools serve the needs of parents who enroll their children in schools, not the other way around.