STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION
Senator NELLIE POU
District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)
Senator M. TERESA RUIZ
District 29 (Essex)
Raises age requirement of compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years old.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel
An Act concerning compulsory education and amending various sections of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. N.J.S.18A:38-25 is amended to read as follows:
18A:38-25. Every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between the ages of six and  18 years, if the child has not graduated from high school, shall cause such child regularly to attend the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.
2. N.J.S.18A:38-27 is amended to read as follows:
18A:38-27. Any child [between the ages of six and 16 years] required to attend school pursuant to N.J.S.18A:38-25 who shall repeatedly be absent from school, and any child of such age found away from school during school hours whose parent, guardian or other person having charge and control of the child is unable to cause him to attend school and any pupil who is incorrigible, actually vagrant, vicious, or immoral in conduct, shall be deemed to be a juvenile delinquent and shall be proceeded against as such.
3. N.J.S.18A:38-28 is amended to read as follows:
18A:38-28. Any attendance officer who shall find any child [between six and 16 years of age] required to attend school pursuant to N.J.S.18A:38-25 who is a truant from school, shall take the child and deliver him to the parent, guardian or other person having charge and control of the child, or to the teacher of the school which such child is lawfully required to attend.
4. N.J.S.18A:38-31 is amended to read as follows:
18A:38-31. A parent, guardian
or other person having charge and control of a child [between
the ages of six and 16 years] required to
attend school pursuant to N.J.S.18A:38-25, who shall fail to comply with
any of the provisions of this article relating to his duties, shall be deemed
to be a disorderly person and shall be subject to a fine of not more than
$25.00 for a first offense and not
more than $100.00 for each subsequent offense, in the discretion of the court.
In any such proceeding, the summons issuing therein, or in special circumstances a warrant, shall be directed to the alleged disorderly person and the child.
(cf: P.L.1980, c.153, s.1)
5. This act shall take effect immediately, but shall not apply to any student who entered the ninth grade prior to the effective date of this act.
This bill raises the age requirement for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years of age, except for students who graduate from high school prior to their eighteenth birthday. This change would first apply to children who are in the eighth grade at the time of the bill's enactment.
The New Jersey Constitution declares that "[t]he Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all children in the State between the age of five and 18 years." (Article VIII, Section IV, paragraph 1).
The requirement for school attendance until age 16 was established in 1914, with an exception permitting children over 14 years of age who were "regularly and lawfully employed in some useful occupation" to leave school. This exception was removed by P.L.1940, c.154 and the 16 year old "drop out" age has not been changed since.
The changes in society and the demands of the modern job market require that all children receive an adequate education. A child who stops attending school at age 16 is not prepared to function in our society.