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As I look at the current
educational system I can always reflect on one simple question.  Who are these people and why are they
here?  The quick answer is that laws have
been made that tells us who is going to school and identifies how long they
must be there.  Over the course of our
nation’s history, these laws have changed based on what society and the policy
makers believe is the best for a given situation.  These situations strive to present a balance
between society moving forward but recognizing cultural and regional needs
separate us as well.  The goal of this
paper is to develop an understanding of the current compulsory attendance laws of
South Dakota and identify some historical decisions that have been made to
provide guidance, stability, expectations and exemptions in relation to who
goes to school and when they must be there.
            First, let’s get a simple
understanding of where we are today.  “Most
state laws have compulsory education laws that require students to attend until
16 or 17 years of age.  Most of these
laws were enacted between 1870 and 1910. 
During that time most people lived in rural areas.  Today, nearly four times as many Americans
live in urban areas rather than rural areas.” 
(Bridgeland, Dilulio, & Streeter, pg. 2)   This has shifted the workforce and labor of
our country to be more serviced based and less reliable on manufacturing, which
was the basis for our economic development, industrial revolution, and growing
prosperity for most of the 1900’s.
            A simple basis for changes in
compulsory attendance laws is economical. 
Most legislative bodies have recognized that laws made a century ago
don’t relate to the world and local economies of today.  Today’s globally competitive economy requires
at least a high school diploma and often additional education and training to
provide the knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century.  (Bridgeland, Dilulio, & Streeter, pg.
1)  Simple income earnings recognize the
need for compulsory education laws to support a reduced financial burden on
governments to aide students who don’t attend school long enough in assisting
them.  Reports identify that the range of
income between students who leave school early and those who at least graduate
high school is “for females between $120,000 and $244,000 and for males between
$117,000 and $322,000 over a lifetime.” 
(Bridgeland, Dilulio, & Streeter, pg. 3)
            In South Dakota, South Dakota
Codified Law states, “Any person having
control of a child, who is not younger than five or older than six by the first
day of September, or any child who, by the first day of September, is at least
six years old but has not exceeded the age of eighteen, shall cause the child
to regularly attend some public or nonpublic school for the term until the
child reaches the age of eighteen years, or has graduated or is excused.” (SDCL
13-27-1)  Up until this decision
made by the Legislature enacted students needed to attend until they reached 16
years of age.  As of the mid 1980’s the
age was 14 years or completed an 8th grade education.  These changes have occurred quickly given the
duration in which the right of the public has been mandated by governing bodies
in our country.  The 8th grade
requirement is still legal within the laws that outline the religious
exemptions within South Dakota.
            The compulsory attendance act of 1852 enacted by the
state of Massachusetts was the first general law attempting to control the
conditions of education towards children and families. The law included
mandatory attendance for children between the ages of eight and fourteen for at
least three months out of each year, in which six weeks had to be
consecutive.  Exceptions were mandated in
the act to exempt children who could prove attendance at another school for the
same amount of time, prove that the child had already learned the subjects, conditions
of poverty, as well as the physical or mental ability of the child to
attend.  Penalties for not sending your
child to school existed and the violators were to be prosecuted by the city.  (Gronke, Vicki)  These basic ideas of fines, exemptions and
age definitions became the norm for most states and school districts who sought
mandates towards children who are given an education.
            One of the initial challenges
was led against compulsory education laws came from Pierce v. Society of Sisters, a 1922 Oregon laws that was presented
to the United States Supreme Court in 1925. 
The law set the compulsory age for school attendance to the ages of
eight to sixteen in public schools.  This
case focused on the concept of parental control versus the states right to
ensure the education of the children. 
Two entities brought forth the challenge, a Catholic school and a college
preparatory school, the Hill Military Academy. 
They sought and obtained an injunction against the law from the U.S.
District Court.
            In reaching a decision, the
court concluded, “The Act of 1922 unreasonably interfered with the liberty of
parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under
their control.”  (Katz, Michael S.)  This ruling defined a crucial limit to
states’ power regarding “compulsory or standardized instruction” for young
people.  The ruling also protected the
right of the state to regulate compulsory attendance stating:  “No question is raised concerning the power
of the State reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise, and
examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper
age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and
patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good
citizenship must be taught and that nothing be taught which is manifestly
inimical to the public welfare.”  (Pierce v. Society of Sisters)  This decision to recognized the courts
ability to tell states they can regulate education but still left legal and
social questions including:  “What degree
and what forms of standardization of education would unconstitutionally abridge
the basic rights of individuals or groups? 
What forms of standardization would be socially, if not legally,
undesirable?  (Katz, Michael S.) 
            These two questions have
raised other legal challenges regarding state legislation.  From a compulsory attendance effect, “exclusions”
have been a major focus.  Most notably
Wisconsin v. Yoder in 1972 which established exclusion rules based on First
Amendment Rights related to Freedom of Religion.  The Amish and Mennonite communities
challenged the states compulsory attendance laws after three adults where
charged, tried, and convicted of violating compulsory attendance laws because
they didn’t enroll their children in a public or private high school.
            The Free Exercise Clause was a
focus of the Supreme Court in ruling in Wisconsin v. Yoder and compulsory
attendance laws were invalid.  In its
decision the court stated; “The First and Fourteenth Amendments prevent the
state from compelling respondents to cause their children to attend formal high
school until age 16.  Only the interest
of the highest order of the state can overbalance sincere claims to the free
exercise of religion.  A State’s interest
in education is not free from a considering process when it might impose on
rights that are specified in the Free Exercise Clause.”  (Case Brief Summary)
            The State of Wisconsin
recognized to key points relating to their argument.  “They stated that education is essential to
prepare young adults to take part in our political system efficiently and
education prepares young adults to be independent and ‘self-sufficient’ members
of society.”  (Case Brief Summary)  The Court agreed with the State’s argument
but recognized that the Amish have been living in and building successful
communities.  They produce law-biding
citizens and that the Amish community has been established for over 200 years
which suggested to the court that they are more than capable of raising and
teaching children after eight grades of school attendance.  Finally, the court made special note
regarding the Amish’s independence as a community stating “Congress even
recognizes their independence by allowing this community to be exempt from
social security taxes.”  (Case Brief
            Many cases have been brought
to challenge compulsory attendance laws. 
South Dakota sets its rules for school attendance in Chapter 13-27 of
their codified laws.   As stated, the initial compulsory attendance
laws in South Dakota state that a student must attend between the ages of 6 and
18 unless the child meets an exclusion requirement.  Exclusions for students in South Dakota are
related to the following reasons: 
Religious Exemptions, illness to oneself or family, exemptions for
participation in state programs, youth programs and work as precinct election
official, alternative instruction including application for home schooling and
enrollment in certified programs such as a GED program or job corps, as well as
suspension and expulsion.
            South Dakota identifies that a
child of compulsory school age who has successfully completed the first eight
grades is excused from compulsory school attendance for two primary
reasons.  According to South Dakota
Codified Laws 13-27-1.1  “the child or
the parents of the child are members of a recognized church or religious
denomination that objects to the regular public high school education and
either individually or in cooperation with another recognized church or
religious denomination provides a regularly supervised program of instruction
in which each child participates in learning activities appropriate to the
adult occupation that the child is likely to assume in later years, then the
child is exempt.”  In the majority of the
cases, this exemption is granted to the Mennonite and Hutterite groups that
operate “colonies” within the state.            The
next exemption is on the bases of the student being excused due to illness in
the family.  South Dakota law 13-27-6,
states “a school board may excuse a child from school attendance because of
serious illness in their immediate family, making the presence at home an
actual necessity, or the presence in school a menace to the health of other
pupils.”  This action is designed to
allow families to properly care for individuals, ensure that the livelihood and
care for an individual is met and ensures that for public health reasons,
illnesses are contained.            Another
exemption is tied to events of state, youth programs, and work as precinct
election official.  Codified laws
13-27-6.1 states, “an elementary and secondary student is eligible to be
counted for school attendance up to five days in a school term if an excuse
from actual school attendance is requested by a parent or guardian for the
purpose of attending events of state or nationally recognized youth programs of
educational value or for the purpose of working as a precinct election official
if the student is at least eighteen years old.” 
Discussion on the matter states that this rule is in place for the
purpose of events like the state fair, national conventions related to Boy
Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, FFA events and today include FCCLA events.            In
relation to alternative instruction in South Dakota, commonly known as
homeschooling parents are allowed to request an exemption to pursue individual
instruction of their children.  Laws
13-27-3 states, “a child shall be excused from school attendance if provided
with alternative instruction for an equivalent period of time, as in the public
schools, in the basic skills of language arts and mathematics.”  This law is one of the most detailed and
provides guidance regarding the requirements of being a valid alternative
instructional setting.
            Rules related by 13-27-3
include that the instructor isn’t required to be certified.  Investigation of alternative instruction can
be conducted upon receipt by written notice that is fourteen days from the
inspection by the Department of Education if probable cause is relevant to
believe the program is out of compliance with its operating means.  The DOE can only inspect records related to
attendance and academic progress of a student. 
The law also places limits on the size of instruction.  A class size is limited to no more than twenty-two
students.  During the process students
must complete national standardized achievement tests of basic skills at
certain grade levels.  Currently, they
are defined as grades, two, four, eight, and eleven.  When a parent petitions for an alternative
program like home-schooling, costs associated with the attendance in the program
is usually their responsibility.  The
district must assist with providing appropriate curriculum materials to aid in
the instruction, but there are no rules related to the use of the materials or
the content in which instruction is given.
            Other alternative programs can
be identified as a replacement for the local district in which a student
resides.  Placement and costs related to
these students is determined by a variety of means.  If the placement is sought by the School
District, then the tuition or cost is usually the burden of the District.  If the placement is at the directive of the
Courts, then the state provides revenue to manage the costs of the
program.  If placement is dictated by
other means such as special education services, then the costs are related to
the district.  In some instances, it is
as simple as stating and enrolling in a general education development
preparation program (GED).  All
alternative instructional programs are subject to the initial aspect of
notification to excuse the child through a notarized witnessed completion of a
document that informs the district of who is going to provide instruction, when
it will be provided, and at the district’s request, may be revoked by the
district.             The final reason based on legal statue for
exclusion to compulsory attendance is to recognize the procedure of suspension
and expulsion.  Suspension is an offense
that usually results in reinstatement within 30 days of the offense in which a
student is suspended.  These are usually
considered disciplinary reasons for a district to waive the required attendance
of a student.  South Dakota ties these
rules into Chapter 13-32 of its Codified Laws. 
Under law 13-32-4, “the school board of every school district shall
assist and cooperate with the administration and teachers in the government and
discipline of the schools.  The board may
suspend or expel from school any student for violation of rules or policies or
for insubordination or misconduct. 
Within this statue, three primary reasons of suspension or expulsion
appear and then in subsections of this statue, other reasons are granted to the
school district to impose suspension or expulsion. 
            Directly stated in 13-32-4 are
viewed as misconduct of a student for: 
(1) the consumption or possession of beer or alcoholic beverages on the
school premises or at school activities, (2) the use or possession of a
controlled substance, without a valid prescription, on the school premises or
at school activities and (3) the use or possession of a firearm on or in any
elementary or secondary school premises, vehicle, or building or any premises,
vehicle or building used or leased for elementary or secondary school functions
or activities.  School districts upon
issuing suspension and expulsion for these actions must properly report the
incident to local law enforcement authorities. 
Expulsion for any such violation can extend beyond a change in terms
within the district’s calendar.  In the
case of expulsion for beer and alcohol, it may not extend beyond ninety
days.  For a firearm violation that was
done intentionally the expulsion may not be for less than twelve months.            To
ensure due process for an accused student who violates school policies that
identify suspension and expulsion as a possible discipline measure 13-32-4.2 of
South Dakota Codified law ensures that “the school board in any district may
authorize the summary suspension of pupils, the pupil or their parents or
others having custodial care may appeal the decision.”  In recognition of the right to appeal and due
process, the suspension can occur unless “(1) the pupil is given oral or
written notice of the charges against them, (2) the pupil is given an oral or
written explanation of the facts that form the basis of the proposed suspension
and (3) the pupil is given an opportunity to present their version of the
incident.”  This statue also states that
if a student appeals the suspension of greater than ten days, the suspension
shall be “stayed until the board renders it’s decision, unless in the judgment
of the superintendent of schools, the pupil’s presence poses a continuing
danger to persons or property or an ongoing threat of disrupting the academic
process, in which case the pupil may be immediately removed from the school and
the notice and hearing shall follow as soon as practicable.”            Codified
Law 13-42-4 is extended to include a third part which outlines the effect of a
student’s suspension or expulsion on enrollment.  It grants the authority for a district to
hinder the enrollment of a student if that student is under a current
suspension or expulsion by another district. 
Statute 13-32-4.3 states, “The superintendent or school administrator of
any school district may prohibit a student from enrolling in that school
district if the student is under suspension or expulsion in a school in another
state or in a nonpublic school in the state.” 

            The final statutes that are
related to suspension and expulsion are 13-32-5 and 13-32-6.  They relate to vandalism of public property
and causing public disturbance within the school that hinders the daily
operation of the building.  The law of
13-32-5 states “any student, who cuts, defaces, or otherwise injuries any
schoolhouse, equipment, outbuilding thereof, is liable to suspension or
expulsion.”  Law 13-32-6 brings to lite
that disturbance can be conducted by a student as well as other persons which
is unique to dealing with suspension and expulsion of a student.  It states “a person, whether pupil or not,
who intentionally disturbs a public or nonpublic school when in session or who
intentionally interferes with or interrupts the proper order or management of a
public or nonpublic school by acts of violence, boisterous conduct, or
threatening language, so as to prevent the teacher or any pupil from performing
their duty, is guilty of a misdemeanor” and subject to suspension and

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                Compulsory attendance laws are
in place to ensure that the education of today’s youth meets a recognized
standard of time in which an adequate education is provided to children.  In South Dakota, compulsory attendance laws
are essential for a school district to understand so they can properly identify
the number of students they seek to serve. 
In doing so, given the current system, this is necessary for budgetary
reasons.  Each student and their
attendance has a direct financial impact on the district.  Exclusions for students directly affects the
operating budget of school system. 
Therefore, it is essential for them to completely understand the rules
for attendance so they can properly identify and account for the students who
they are responsible for and ensure that they receive the adequate financial
reimbursement from the state.
                This basic fact lead to
the support by schools for the changing of the age range of a student in 2006
that is identified in SDCL 13-27-1 in which “a child, not younger than five or
older than six but who has not exceeded the age of eighteen shall regularly
attend some public or nonpublic school in the district in which the person
resides.”  It also on the State’s side of
management creates the need for additional statutes that define educational
placement, who is responsible for the student and how someone can be excluded
from attendance to ensure that money allocated is done so responsibly and
                Compulsory attendance laws
aid the state, communities and parents or guardians by ensuring that children
are being provided with an opportunity to develop socially as well as
academically.  By recognizing clear
definitions of who must attend school, all invested parties of children are
assured that through every effort, we raise the next generation of people to be
responsible and aware of the need for an appropriate education.  For students, who may not value the
opportunities that their educational instruction brings, they can clearly be
informed of what are the societal expectations for their development and how
long most people believe is necessary to receive a proper education to move to
the adult world of their lives.  And
statutes such as 13-27-1.1 which offers the religious exemption after eighth
grade, 13-27-3, which recognizes the parent’s right to provide alternative
instruction allow protection under such things as the First and Fourteenth
Amendments that although we believe we know what is best, proper placement for
all students may not mean the same placement for all students.
                Therefore, as we continue
to evaluate the
current educational system we see that society and the policy makers believe that
education is an important attribute to the development and growth of its
children.  Within this paper I have
provided information to help people develop an understanding of the current
compulsory attendance laws of South Dakota and identify some historical
decisions that have been made to provide guidance, stability, expectations and
exemptions in relation to who goes to school and when they must be there.
                Remember that the basis
for changes in compulsory attendance laws has become economical.  As stated by Bridgeland, Dilulio and
Streeter, “Today’s globally competitive economy requires at least a high school
diploma and often additional education and training to provide the knowledge
and skills needed for the 21st century and that compulsory education
laws are designed to support a reduced financial burden on governments to aide
students who don’t attend school long enough who become dependent on programs
that assist them on all levels of life from financial to medical.  Attending school is good for all, and
spending a lifetime learning and understanding why we value education the way
we do and using compulsory attendance laws to ensure the education of children
is an appropriate move by any governing body.

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