The school I chose won’t let my child attend. Can they do that?

1. Understand who must attend school

School is mandatory

Every child in Ontario must attend school from age 6 to 18. But you can homeschool your child instead of sending them to a school.

Children can start school before they are 6 years old, but this is optional. In Ontario, we call this kindergarten.

The school year in Ontario starts in September. To start junior kindergarten (JK) in September, your child must turn 4 before the end of December that year. For example:

  • A child born between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016, can start JK in September 2020.
  • A child born between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, can start JK in September 2021.

A student can quit school on the day they turn 18.

A student can also quit school when they are 17. If your 18th birthday is between the last school day in June and December 31 that same year, then you can quit school on the last day of school in June, even though haven't had your 18th birthday yet..

Charges for not attending school

If you are 12 to 15 years old and you skip school, you can be charged by the police. This charge is called “truancy”. Truancy is not a crime. You can't go to jail or get a criminal record for it. But a judge can fine you up to $1,000 put you on probation for 1 year. If you don't follow your probation, then the judge could send you to jail for up to 30 days.

If you are charged with truancy, you can call Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY) at 1-866-999-5329 to get advice from a youth rights lawyer.

If you are a parent who is not sending your child to school, the police can charge you. You can be fined up to $200. JFCY will not help parents who are charged.

Exceptions to mandatory attendance

In Ontario, the Education Act says that children must attend school. A child can be excused from going to school only for a reason that is included in the Act. Students can be excused from missing school if they are:

  • being properly homeschooled
  • sick
  • living too far from a school and the school doesn't provide transportation
  • getting music lessons up to one half-day a week
  • suspended, expelled, or excluded (see Step 3)
  • away from school for religious reasons

School officials, professionals like doctors or social workers, and other community members have a duty to tell a child protection agency if:

  • you regularly don't send your child to school,
  • your child misses a lot of school without a legal excuse, or
  • they are worried about the quality of your homeschooling.
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