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Texas Attorney General Opines on Truancy

| June 14, 2012

Last year, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 1489, which limited the offense of truancy to those only under the age of 18. Prior to the passage of this legislation, students aged 18-21 who were enrolled in a Texas public school but not required to attend under the state’s compulsory school laws were still being charged with truancy for their failure to attend.

This created a peculiar situation wherein students not otherwise required to go to school were still being criminally charged for their failure to do so. In response to this, the Legislature sought to eliminate this discrepancy in the law and make it clear that truancy laws only apply to those who are compelled to be in school.

The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, was asked to opine on the issue by a district attorney. The district attorney inquired as to the effect of the new law on truancy offenses because Senate Bill 1489 only amended state laws on truancy, while compulsory school laws, which specifically refer to students over the age of 18 and their eligibility for a truancy offense, were not amended by Senate Bill 1489.

Attorney General Abbott noted the “irreconcilabl[e] conflict” between these two statutes, but due to the rule of construction that “the statute latest in date of enactment prevails,” Senate Bill 1489 effectively barred truancy charges for students over the age of 18.