It was a warm Friday afternoon in June, and all of the students at St. Charles elementary school headed to the playground for their second recess of the day.

“Ah, it’s so nice outside,” exclaimed Tom, an eighth-grader at the school. He and his friend, David, were the first ones out the door.

“Too bad we’re stuck at school.” David responded. “It would be a perfect day to go to the Water Park at Sunny Side Bay.”

Lakeside Beach Lounge Pool
Photo from Ontario Place website: 

Tom turned to David with an excited look on his face. “Hey, what if we just took the day off from school? We can go on all the water slides we want! What do you say?”

“Take the day off…you mean…skip school?” David asked.

“Yea, it would be amazing!” Tom responded. “We’d have an early start to the weekend. Besides, I don’t think our teacher would even mind. It’s the second last Friday before school ends. She knows that none of us really want to be here.”

David looked uncertain. He was worried about the consequences of skipping school. After pausing for a few seconds, he finally spoke, “Okay, fine let’s do it. I really hope we don’t get in serious trouble for this.”

“We won’t,” Tom remarked. “Everything will be just fine, trust me.”

The two boys quickly hopped the fence that surrounded their school yard. They headed towards a bus stop at the end of the street.

What are the legal consequences for skipping school?

The Education Act is the Ontario law that covers education issues, including attendance.  It requires everyone over the age of six to attend school until they graduate or reach age 18.  This doesn’t just mean registering in school – it means actually going, every single day that school is in session!
What if you are sick? Or you have a religious holiday? Or your parents have decided to home school you?  Are you breaking the law?  The answer is no.  You can be excused from attendance at school for any of those reasons, and you are also excused from attendance at school if you are suspended or expelled.
But aside from exceptions like these, you are required to go to school every day.  If David and Tom don’t go to school, they are breaking the law in Ontario.  The school attendance counselor will contact their parents or guardians to let them know that David and Tom weren’t at school that day.  The Education Act makes it a parent or guardian’s responsibility to make sure that students go to school if the law requires it.  If a parent neglects or refuses to fulfill this responsibility, they can be fined up to $200.
David will probably not receive a very serious punishment for skipping school one time.  His parents will find out, and he might receive a consequence from them at home or feel that they trust him less.  His school will probably give him a consequence, too, like a detention.  However, if David skips school on a regular basis, the consequences will become more serious – he could even be charged with an offence under the Provincial Offences Act.
To learn more about mandatory school attendance, see sections 25, 26, 30, and 31 of the Education Act.

The scenario was written by JFCY PLE Team volunteer Stefan Venier. Legal info was written by Leora Jackson, a U of T law student and JFCY volunteer.  Reviewed by JFCY.