Nothing dates you like dropping a song reference.

Do you remember this one from Howard Jones?

You can look at the menu, but you just can’t eat
You can feel the cushion, but you can’t have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool, but you can’t have a swim
You can feel the punishment, but you can’t commit the sin

Howard Jones, No One is to Blame, 1986

This 1986 hit “describes the frustration and pain of unfulfilled desires and dreams inherent in the human condition.”

Or so I read on Wikipedia.

I’ll tell you what is my big unfulfilled desire and dream inherent in my human condition.

In my 13 ½ years of parenthood, I have been away from my kids exactly 14 nights. Since the arrival of Number 4 almost 5 years ago, I have only been away four nights, with two of those nights being a hospital stay following major abdominal surgery.

Here’s the kick in the pants. My husband travels enough for work to earn a Companion Pass on Southwest every year. Unfamiliar with the Companion Pass? Every time my husband flies on Southwest, he can bring a companion who travels for FREE.

So when my husband flies to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, or New York for work, I could just tag along for free. 

But I don’t. Why? Because I would have better luck figuring out how David Copperfield made the Statute of Liberty disappear or exploring the mysteries of Al Capone’s vaults than finding someone willing to not only watch my four kids but to chauffeur them all over town to all of their activities.

Just a couple more 80s references so you know for sure that I am in my 40s. Early 40s. Barely.

Is my husband’s Companion Pass collecting dust? Not quite. While I don’t join him on business trips, our daughters occasionally do.

The lucky recipient last week was our eldest daughter Cate. She accompanied her dad to New Orleans for an argument in front of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For you non-lawyers, that’s the big show for litigators.

While I was home wrangling her sisters, Cate got to enjoy fine dining, sight seeing, a night at a fancy hotel, and the opportunity to watch her dad show off his oratory skills. I maybe a little biased, but my favorite law school classmate is pretty darn good at what he does.

The cost to Cate for her trip to New Orleans? One unexcused absence from school.

You don’t have to be a lawyer to come up with a good argument to justify your kid ditching school for a day or two (or more). Perhaps the trip is educational, like my daughter’s trip to New Orleans. Maybe your child gets good grades and can afford to miss a day or two. And Disney is definitely cheaper and a heck of a lot less crowded in November than July.

You also don’t have to genius to know your kid’s school doesn’t want you pulling them out for vacations. Your kid’s absence creates additional work for teachers as they get your child back on track. For older kids, they may skip the helping your kid get back on track part in favor of zeros for missed work and tests.

So you know your kid’s school may penalize your kid for unexcused absences. But could you get in trouble?

You bet.

Every state has it’s own truancy laws. For example, several states fine parents for taking their kids out of school for more than a few days at a time.

Since I’m a Texas lawyer, I am going to focus on Texas truancy laws. Fun fact, up until 2015, it was a CRIME in Texas to miss too many days of school. Yes, they would actually send kids to jail for missing too much school. While it’s no longer a crime, hefty fines are in place for both kids and their parents if too many days of school are missed.

So how many is too many? Fewer than you would think.

If your child has three unexcused absences in a four-week period, the school is required to send you a truancy notification and require you to enroll in their truancy prevention program.

If your child has ten unexcused absences in a six-month period, the school can refer your child to truancy court where your child can face fines, a loss of driving privileges, and maybe even a referral to the juvenile court system.

And for you parents, the school could also file a criminal complaint against you for negligence, which could result in even more fines.

So how good is that November trip to Disney looking now?

So what should you do as a practical matter if you you’ve already made your dining reservations and secured your Fast Passes for a November Disney vacation?

Talk to your child’s school. They may be willing to work with you, if they have enough advanced notice and you are willing to make sure your child completes missed school work.

I’ll give you a example from my own life where this strategy did work.

When my eldest daughter was in the first grade, we had a chance to go on a trip with my entire family (my parents and my siblings and their families) to Ireland. And my dad generously offered to buy everyone’s plane tickets (a very generous offer considering I had three kids at the time). The problem? We would be gone the first week and a half of the school year.

So what did we do? We went on the trip of course. But we also spoke with the school’s principal well in advance of the trip. Her advice was to withdraw our daughter from school and to re-enroll her when we returned from our trip.

I have no idea if this was a true loophole to the truancy laws, but I will say we did not get a truancy notice from the school (unlike the previous year when we did pull her out of school for a few days without speaking to the principal in advance).

What do you think? Is it okay for your kid to ditch school for a family vacation? Leave a comment or send me an email.

 Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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