In Texas, children are required to attend school until they're 18-years-old. Failure to do so -- dropping out -- is against the law. However, lawmakers created several exceptions that could permit a student as young as age 16 to stop going to school, as long as that student meets certain legal requirements.
Public School Attendance
Texas school-attendance laws require everyone between the ages of 6 and 18 to attend a public school -- unless they meet the criteria for one of the many allowable exceptions. The broad language of the law allows school districts and law enforcement officers to act on truancy complaints. If a truancy complaint is brought against you or your child, you will have to prove that there was a legitimate reason for your child not being in public school. Otherwise, both you and your child can be charged with a class C misdemeanor.
The primary exception to compulsory public school attendance in Texas is enrollment in an approved, nonpublic school. This exemption includes private and charter schools, religiously affiliated schools and home-schooling programs. Students who enroll in any of these acceptable alternatives to public school won't get in trouble with the law for failing to attend public school. However, the state or local school district must recognize the alternative school or home-schooling program. You can't just sit on the sofa watching public television and claim that you're home-schooling your child.
Under a few limited circumstances, 16- or 17-year-olds enrolled in a general education development, or GED, program can obtain an exemption from attending public schools. A 17-year-old can enroll in a GED course instead of attending high school if he has parental permission, is emancipated, is homeless or is otherwise living on his own. A court may also order a 16- or 17-year-old who has past problems with truancy or other issues to complete a GED course rather than attend school. Some school districts and open-enrollment charter schools also offer GED programs for which some 16-year-olds may qualify.
Students in certain special education courses that do not require school attendance, or younger students who have already received a high school diploma, are not required to attend school. In Texas counties with a population of less than 125,000, expelled students are not required to attend school. In bigger counties, however, expelled students must attend a juvenile justice alternative education program. If the expelled student has special education needs, however, all counties, regardless of size, must continue to meet those needs during the period of expulsion.