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Failure to Attend School
Responding to Criminal Complaints

Summons for Parent or Person Standing in Parental Relation (“Parent”)

The court having jurisdiction of the “failure to attend school” charge will issue a summons to the parent of the student charged or to the person standing in parental relation to the student charged. The summons will contain an order directing the parent to appear personally at the hearing and to bring the student to the hearing. The parent may be required to attend a class for students at risk of dropping out of school designed for both the individual and the individual’s parent, which may be enforceable by contempt. A parent who fails to attend a hearing after receiving a summons commits an offense punishable as a Class C misdemeanor.

Rights of Defendants

Defendants accused of an offense within the jurisdiction of the justice courts have certain rights.

  • The right to see the complaint or citation that has been filed with the court.
  • The right to a trial by jury, but that right may be waived and trial will be by the court.
  • The right to be represented by an attorney of choice. A defendant is not required to be represented by an attorney.
  • The right to remain silent. A defendant may waive this right and discuss the case with a prosecutor in an effort to dispose of the case without trial.


First Appearance in Court

At the time of the first appearance for the offense of “failure to attend school,” the student will be identified, and asked to plead to the offense charged.

Pleas are "not guilty," "guilty," or "no contest."

The plea of a defendant younger than 17 years old must be made in open court, with the defendant’s parent present.

If the defendant enters a plea “not guilty,” the case will be set for trial. The defendant may waive the right to a trial by jury and have the case heard by the court. At the request of the defendant, the court will subpoena a witness on the defendant’s behalf, but the name, address, and telephone number of each witness must be furnished to the court prior to trial. The defendant may be required to attend a pre-trial conference.

Refusal to enter a plea will result in the entry of a “not guilty” plea by the court and the case will be set for a jury trial unless that right is waived.

A defendant charged with “failure to attend school” will have the opportunity to review their case with a prosecutor, who may enter into a diversion agreement with the student.

On a plea of “guilty” or “no contest” the court will make a finding of guilt and assess a fine as punishment.

On a plea of “guilty” or “no contest,” evidence or documents may be presented to the court and mitigating circumstances that may affect punishment may be explained.

Defendants have a responsibility to notify the court of any change of address.

Discovery

You may request documents and evidence in your case from the State by following the discovery procedures set out in Art. 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. ("Discovery" is the process by which the defendant may request evidence related to the case from the State.)



Right to Expunction

A defendant convicted only one time of the offense of “failure to attend school” has the right to have the records of that conviction expunged. On commencement of proceedings for “failure to attend school,” the judge must inform the student and the student’s parent, in open court, of the right to expunction under certain circumstances. The judge must also provide a copy of Tex. Crim. Proc. Code §45.055. If the record is expunged, the defendant is released from all disabilities resulting from the conviction and the conviction may not be shown or made known for any purpose.

A person seeking to have the record expunged must submit a written request under oath, to the court in which the person was convicted. The request may be submitted on or after the person’s 18th birthday and must include the following statement: “I have not been convicted of more than one violation of Failure to Attend School, §25.094 of the Texas Education.”

A fee of $30 must be paid when the application for expunction is filed.

A court must expunge a conviction for “failure to attend school” regardless of whether there was a previous conviction if (1) the court finds that the individual has successfully complied with the conditions imposed by the court, or (2) before the individual’s 21st birthday, the individual presents to the court proof that the individual has obtained a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certificate.

Texas Code of Crim. Proc. art. 45.055


Specific Procedures for Failure to Attend School Proceedings

On a finding that the student has committed the offense of “failure to attend school,” the court may enter an order that includes one or more of the requirements in art. 45.054, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: 

  • That the student attend school without unexcused absences;
  • That the student attend a preparatory class for the high school equivalency examination;
  • That the student take the high school equivalency examination if the individual is at least 16 years old;
  • That the student attend special programs that the court determines to be in best interest of the defendant;
  • That the student complete reasonable community service requirements;
  • That the student participate in a tutorial program.

The court may enter an order requiring the defendant and the defendant’s parent to attend a class for students at risk of dropping out of school.
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The court has the option to enter an order directing the Department of Public Safety to suspend the defendant’s driver’s license or permit, or to deny the issuance of a license or permit for a specified period, not to exceed 365 days. Texas Code of Crim. Proc. art. 45.054 and art. 45.051.


Judgment

On a plea of “guilty” or “no contest,” or on a finding of guilt, the judge will convict the defendant, assessing a fine and directing the satisfaction of the judgment. 
At the time of conviction, the judge may allow a defendant who is a child to elect to discharge the fine and costs by (i) performing community service or attending a tutoring program, or (ii) paying the fine and costs when sentence is pronounced, paying the fine and costs at some later date, or paying a portion of the fine and costs at designated intervals.  The election by a defendant who is a child of the manner of discharging the fine and costs must be made in writing, and signed by the defendant and the defendant’s parent, guardian, or managing conservator, if present.  The written election is a court record which must be maintained by the court.

Texas Code of Crim. Proc. art. 45.041.

If the defendant was a child at the time the offense was committed and discharging the fine and costs in any manner would impose an undue hardship on the defendant, the court may waive payment of a fine or costs imposed on a defendant who defaults in payment.

Texas Code of Crim. Proc. art. 45.0491.

More Information about Failure to Attend School Cases



General Information

This information is furnished to you to provide basic information relative to the law governing procedures for Failure to Attend School and Parent Contributing to Failure to Attend School cases in the Harris County Justice Courts.

The Harris County Justices of the Peace and the Clerks of the Harris County Justice Courts are not allowed to give legal advice. You are urged to review the applicable laws and to consult an attorney of your choice for further information or answers to specific legal questions.

You have the right to a trial by a jury and to be represented by an attorney of your choice, or to represent yourself.

Disclaimer: The law is constantly changing and there may be times when the information on this web site will not be current. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. This information is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.