Under Section 22.1-254 of the Virginia Code, parents of minor children must send their kids to a public or private school for the same number of days and hours as public schools are in session. Section 22.1-254 states, in relevant part:
[E]very parent, guardian, or other person in the Commonwealth having control or charge of any child who will have reached the fifth birthday on or before September 30 of any schoolyear and who has not passed the eighteenth birthday shall, during the period of each year the public schools are in session and for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools, send such child to a public school or to a private, denominational, or parochial school […]
Moreover, a parent or guardian’s failure to send their child to school constitutes a class 3 misdemeanor under Section 22.1-263 of the Virginia Code.
Under the plain terms of Section 22.1-254, then, a parent who repeatedly sends their children to school late would constitute a class 3 misdemeanor, because the children were not in class for the same number of hours as other students. In fact, for years, this is how Virginia courts have interpreted the rule. However, in the recent case of Blake v. Virginia, Virginia’s highest court decriminalized excessive tardies. Here are the relevant facts of the case:
The defendant (mother) was convicted on three (3) counts of failing to send her children to school, specifically – failing to send her children to school on time. The school records showed that the children were late 10 of 16 days over a four (4) month period. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court found the mother guilty of violating Section 22.1-254, as did the Circuit Court and Virginia Court of Appeals.
However, in her final appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, the court ruled that the mother was not guilty and overturned her criminal convictions. According to the Court, the word “send” in section 22.1-254 (and other related sections) simply means to enroll your children in school, not to make sure that the kids are on time and spend every second in school. Thus, the Court’s interpretation of Section 22.1-254 ensures that parents and guardians cannot face criminal penalties for repeatedly sending their children to school late, so long as the kids are actually enrolled in a public or private school.
If you are going through a custody case or have any other family law matter, be sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney who knows the law and can protect your rights. The DiPietro Family Law Group has teams of experienced family lawyers in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (888) 530-4374.