Truancy is any intentional, unauthorized or illegal absence from compulsory education. It is absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate "excused" absences, such as ones related to medical conditions. Truancy is usually explicitly defined in the school's handbook of policies and procedures. Some children whose parents claim to homeschool have also been found truant in the United States. Another term for truancy is playing hooky. Officially attending school, but not going to class is skipping class/lesson.
In some schools, truancy may result in not being able to graduate or to receive credit for class attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, fines, or summer school.
Truancy is a frequent subject of popular culture; Ferris Bueller's Day Off is about the title character's (played by Matthew Broderick) day of truancy in Chicago with his girlfriend and best friend. Truancy is also the title of a 2008 novel about a student uprising against a dictatorial educational system.
There are a number of expressions in most of languages which refer to truancy. In South Africa, the slang used is bunking, mulling, skipping or jippo. In Jamaica, it is called skulling. In Guyana skulking. In Antigua and Barbuda, it is called skudding. In New Zealand and Australia truancy is called wagging, bunking, "jigging", ditching, or skipping school. It is called bunking (off) or skiving or wagging in the United Kingdom, mitching, twagging, "skiving" or on the knock. In Wales, mitching or sagging. In Liverpool, bunking or cutting class, doggin, skiving, playing tickie or puggin. In Scotland, on the hop, on the bunk, mitching, beaking, skiving, doggin it or on the beak. In Ireland, mitching, on the hop, dossing, on the duck or skiving. In the United States and Canada expressions include hookey, playing hookey, ditching, dipping, jigging, sluffing, skipping, cutting class, or simply just cutting. In the city of St. John's, the act of truancy is known amongst youths as pipping off, and truant students are described as being on the pip. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is referred to as breaking biche. In Singapore and Malaysia, it is referred to as fly. In the state of Utah a sluff is a commonly used word referring to a truancy. In Pakistan and India it is referred to as bunking. In South Korea, it is called ddang-ddang-i. In Japan, It is called zuruyasumi.
In Denmark, some welfare benefits can be confiscated for a period if the child does not attend school. However, not all cities use this approach to keep the children in school. Most cities watch for families who have not returned their children to school after the summer vacation because some groups exiled their children to their ethnic home countries for behavior modification. In the city of Aarhus, 155 children had not turned up one week after the school started. In April 2009, research among 4,000 students showed that more than every third student had been absent during the last 14 days.
In Finland truant pupils usually get detention in comprehensive schools. The police are not involved in truancy control but the teachers of the school monitor the school area and sometimes the nearby areas during recess to avoid unauthorized absence. If the pupil is absent for a long period of time the parents may be fined. The aim of fining is to try to force parents to put their children into school. The child will not be escorted to school, but can be taken away from parents if continued.
In Germany, the parents of a child absent from school without a legitimate excuse are notified by the school. If the parents refuse to send their child to school or are unable to control their child, local child services or social services officers may request the police to escort the child to school, and in extreme cases may petition a court to partially or completely remove child custody from the parents. Parents may also be fined in cases of refusal.
In England and Wales, truancy is a criminal offence for parents and since the passage of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, parents of persistent truants may be imprisoned for up to three months. In 2002, the first parent was imprisoned under this provision.
Since 1998, a police officer of or above the rank of superintendent may direct that for a specified time in a specified area a police officer may remove a child believed to be absent from a school without authority to that school or to another designated place. However this is not a power of arrest and it is not a power to detain, and does not make truancy a criminal offence. There is a warning given the first time the parents allow the child to commit truancy, but if they allow it more than once, then the parents are given a fine starting from £50. Some charities have highlighted an increasing prevalence of truancy among impoverished girls during menstruation, with others alternating by inserting socks instead of tampons.
In the United States, truancy regulations are generally enforced by school officials under the context of parental responsibility. New automated calling systems allow the automated notification of parents when a child is not marked present in the computer, and truancy records for many states are available for inspection online. In large schools where law enforcement officers are present, the fine for "playing hooky" can range from $250 to as much as $500. About 12,000 students were ticketed for truancy in 2008 in Los Angeles. Many states provide for the appointment of local truancy officers who have the authority to arrest habitually truant youths and bring them to their parents or to the school they are supposed to attend. Many states also have the power to revoke a student's driver's license or permit. Where it exists, a school truancy officer is often a constable or sheriff, concurrently. The position of a full-time truancy officer is generally viewed as being a relic from the 19th century when mandatory school attendance was relatively new.
Until the child reaches the age of compulsory, most parents are responsible for their children's attendance. It is not illegal for children who dropped out of school to not be in school or are legally excused (Sick, doctor/dentist appointment, death in family, etc.) Depending on the state, if the child is at the age of the compulsory education (Most set this at 18, some 16 and 17), they are no longer required by law to attend school.
Children in private school or homeschooling are exempt from mandatory public school.
In Poland and the Faroe Islands, the first day of spring (March 21) is an unofficial occasion popular among children, who traditionally play truant on that day. Similarly, students in the United States have Senior Skip Day. The date for skip day varies among different schools. In the Eastern states of the United States, Senior Skip Day is often celebrated on the last Friday before Spring Break, or in some cases, the Monday after prom.