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Illinois School Attendance Laws: What are the legal requirements for school attendance?

Understanding Illinois School Attendance Laws

In Illinois, as in most states, education is not just a privilege but a requirement under the law. The Illinois School Code sets forth the legal framework for school attendance, mandating that all children between the ages of 6 and 17 must be enrolled in and attend school. This law is designed to ensure that children receive the education necessary for their personal and professional development.

Compulsory Education Age Requirements

The Illinois Compulsory Attendance Law requires children to attend school while in this age range, with few exceptions. Before reaching the minimum age for mandatory attendance, parents may choose to enroll their children in early education programs, though it is not required by law.

Legitimate Exceptions to Attendance

While the law is clear on the necessity of attendance, there are several legitimate reasons for absence which include:

Parents are responsible for notifying the school of the child's absence and providing documentation when required.

Homeschooling Regulations

Illinois also provides for homeschooling as an alternative form of compliance with compulsory education laws. Homeschools in Illinois are considered private schools; parents who choose to homeschool must provide instruction in certain specified subjects and ensure their children receive an education equivalent to that provided in public schools.

Truancy and Legal Consequences

Should a child fail to attend school without valid reason, they may be considered truant. Truancy can lead to a range of consequences, from parental counseling and student support services to potential legal action against the parents or guardians. Chronic truancy might involve intervention from juvenile court systems or other state agencies.

Historical Context and Modern Developments

The roots of compulsory education in America can be traced back to the Massachusetts School Laws of the 1640s. Over time, every state adopted similar laws, reflecting the nation's commitment to education. In recent years, Illinois has seen updates to its attendance laws, including efforts to address chronic absenteeism and support at-risk students.


The Illinois School Code's attendance requirements serve as both a directive and a promise — a directive for participation in education and a promise of each child's right to that education. By understanding these laws, families can work within them to ensure their children's academic success and adherence to state requirements.