Yes, teens are losing their licenses for skipping school

Some of you doubted this was happening when I asked about it last week here on the blog, but the AJC has found through an Open Records request that nearly 13,000 Georgia teens had their driver’s licenses yanked in 2010 for just one reason: Too many unexcused school absences.

According to the news story today:

Under state law, 10 or more unexcused absences are all it takes for that coveted coming-of-age privilege of driving to come to a screeching halt. At least temporarily.

Students generally have ample warning about the law that’s more than a decade old. It’s spelled out in the student handbook, plastered on posters in some high school attendance offices and underscored in red-flag letters that go out, typically, after five or seven absences.

In Cobb County, an automated calling system alerts parents when unexcused absences reach the thresholds of five, seven, 10 and 15 days. That same system automatically prints a letter for the school to mail and sends an email to the parent, said Paul Pursell, the district’s truancy coordinator.

Yet students in virtually every county lost their license for a year or until they turned 18, when the law no longer applies, according to data collected by the state Department of Drivers Services and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act.

Gwinnett, home of the state’s largest school system, had the most absence-related license suspensions in 2010, with 2,269 out of a statewide total of 12,974, or about 17.5 percent, the data shows. Large numbers of license suspensions also were reported in most metro counties, including Clayton (619), DeKalb (960), Forsyth (503), Fulton (1,156) and Paulding (596).

The state suspended the licenses of 941 students in Cobb County, including a couple of friends of Osborne High senior Myra Hernandez. “I told them that’s what you get. You should stay at school,” Hernandez said.

About half of the 50 states have laws linking student attendance to driving privileges, said Matt Lenard, policy analyst for the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). West Virginia was the first, with a law in 1988, he said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

40 comments Add your comment


October 26th, 2011
1:12 pm

One of the more sensible education-related legislative actions in recent years. Something kids may pay attention to, so they know we adults are serious about their education.

It is a shame, though, that we need a second line of defense on the issue. Shouldn’t parents already be providing similar consequences to students who miss school without cause?

Still, this is a program that should be continued.

Stupid Parent

October 26th, 2011
1:20 pm

It’s got to be the teacher’s fault that these students are skipping. If they made school more interesting or relevant, there would be no reason to skip.


October 26th, 2011
1:33 pm

I agree with this. Attending school isn’t that difficult.

Once Again

October 26th, 2011
1:42 pm

Just another reason to homeschool your children.

Inman Park Boy

October 26th, 2011
1:55 pm

Another reason to “homeschool” your children? Really? Do you feed them a little bourbon between Physics and Algebra II?


October 26th, 2011
1:58 pm

In all my years of teaching, this has been one of the more effective ways to get kids to pay attention to attendance. They may not be able to see the future impact of their education (they’re far to concrete thinking, even as teens), but they know how to count and they value the privilege of driving. Believe me, at my school we have quite a number who get to 8 or 9 and then stumble in here every day regardless. Just remember, they have to show up at grownup work to keep a job, and few work places allow ten days a year.


October 26th, 2011
2:01 pm

too…not to. Spending my days around freshmen tends to affect one after a few years!


October 26th, 2011
2:09 pm

Just before I graduated from high school, my district implemented an exam exemption policy linked with attendance. If you had an A in a class, and no more than four absences (from that class), you didn’t have to take the final exam (unless it was a state mandated EOCT). If you had a B, no more than three absences, and a C, no more than two. I’m sure this improved attendance greatly.


October 26th, 2011
2:31 pm

How are the Excused Absences validated? Too many students and parents will out and out lie to pull kids out of class to do whatever it is they do when not in class. If they are not in class they are not in class.


October 26th, 2011
2:56 pm

This article is misleading – kids can skip one period all they like and not lose their licences. Kids have to miss ENTIRE DAYS for this law to apply to them. So kids who can’t get out of bed on time and consistently sleep through first block, they won’t lose their licences. Kids who skip the last period of the day – they don’t lose their licences.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 26th, 2011
3:01 pm

Disagree 100%. This is just more Nanny-State/Nazi-state style govt tactics aimed at taking away freedoms one piece of the pie at a time.


October 26th, 2011
3:06 pm

Don’t think it happens much around here. It is well known by the students that they can appeal, file “excuses” late, etc. Plus they can claim they”have” to have a license to drive to work. I say let the parents take them, if work is so necessary. Or maybe they should concentrate on school instead.

Atlanta mom

October 26th, 2011
3:07 pm

How much do we think those children are learning–those who are in school simply to keep the drivers license?
If they are sleeping in the back of the room-hurray!
But how much disruption are they causing? Is this fair to the students who want to be there?
Perhaps some HS teachers can enlighten me.


October 26th, 2011
3:11 pm


“How much do we think those children are learning–those who are in school simply to keep the drivers license?”

Oh yeah – it is about how good the school looks regarding the data.



October 26th, 2011
3:40 pm

Whatever happened to parenting? It’s bad enough that parents expect the teachers to raise their children, now the gubmint is in charge of punishing the kids. Give me a break.


October 26th, 2011
3:45 pm

The State needs to vaccinate the children against the spread of senioritis…..


October 26th, 2011
3:48 pm

If we as a state really believed that getting an education was the most important action a child can take then we would have changed the law and made the driving age 18. Why do 16 year olds need to drive? How much money do we spend buying the extra land and building these huge parking lots so that children can drive to school? How many more teachers could we put in the classroom or better books we could have bought if we did not have those expenses?

I have already told my children that they will not get a license until their senior year and that is only if they have over a 3.3 GPA. It is a pain to have to take them back and forth to school for extra curricular activities but I am the parent and that is my responsibility.


October 26th, 2011
3:59 pm

I don’t know why I am torn on this issue….and I am a mother of a 19 yo, 11 yo and 5 yo. I am parenting/do parent my kids and don’t need the state to help me get my kids to class.

However, I do realize that the school systems loose money when attendance drops so….. is the emphasis just on getting the kid to school so they can make my count? What is the school doing to encourage the kids to go and stay? Where are the parents? After 1 unexcused absence, the parent should take the license and the car from the kids. Now, the government is watching my kids from every angle… I just don’t know how I feel about this one.


October 26th, 2011
4:06 pm

camille- you are not in the majority in this state, that’s for sure. We have many parents who mean well, but will offer excuses for the anything their kids do. The kids that this ends up affecting are not from homes like yours, more’s the pity. If parents set those standards, the schools wouldn’t need to.

catlady- we only accept doctor’s notes as excuses. Sure, parents can often get those just by calling the doctor, but we have seen local doctors catch on and require an actual visit (paid of course) to offer the note. It has been a good deterrent in my rural county where everyone has to drive to get anywhere and status is measured by the height of your four-wheel-drive!

Captain America

October 26th, 2011
4:07 pm

This keeps students in school for the wrong reasons. The crap kids who cause all the problems behaviorally and academically come to school just to maintain their licenses.

Jennifer Falk

October 26th, 2011
4:19 pm

So Maureen – here are three very specific questions that I am curious about:
1) Under IE2 is GCPS still required to send the truancy letters home ? I recall a few principals saying that this is one of the state laws that they waived to save $$$ in postage. If so, how are they actually notifying parents ?
2) In most counties, I thought an out of school suspension is defined as an “unexcused absence”. If that is the case – then any student with multiple 3, 4 day suspensions that exceed 10 days in a year is affected AND
3) When a student is sent to a tribunal they will automatically (in most cases) be “suspended”, ie unexcused absence for 9 days, and I know of no student who actually is able to enroll immediately in the county alternative school- so that must mean that they are out for 10+ days as well.

If #3 is accurate then every child who is sent to a tribunal regardless of the level of offense is getting hit with the removal of driving privilege. I bring all of this up because the 13,000 number is oddly reflective of the total amount of students attending alternative education facilities in Georgia.

Swede Atlanta

October 26th, 2011
4:20 pm

When I was that age my parents would have yanked car privileges from me if I so much as missed a single period.

This is the nanny state where parents hand over responsibility for their children to schools. I would prefer the schools focus on educating students and not be part of a big-brother surveillance and reporting instrument.

We need to find ways to make education interesting, help children understand the importance of a solid education, etc. and not use the driver’s license as a carrot/stick. I loved school and would never have thought of missing a single class. I had great teachers but always knew that any deviation on my part would bring down my parent’s ire. That ire was never expressed in corporal punishment. A single word to me or that special look and I knew I was in trouble.


October 26th, 2011
4:45 pm

As I high school teacher, I think this is great


October 26th, 2011
4:46 pm

Head Scratcher

October 26th, 2011
4:56 pm

Simply attending isn’t enough to earn such a privledge. A minimum GPA of 3.0 should also be required. But if schools transitioned to a digital format of roll taking, the Department of Driver Services could sync DL#’s with Student ID #’s (similar to the point system for moving violations) And when Student Drivers reach their license is forfeited until they reach the age of 18. Quite frankly, It troubled me knowing that one of my peers (in high school) who I knew was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, was parking beside me in the student parking lot. I felt a bit less safe.

Head Scratcher

October 26th, 2011
4:57 pm

*the magic number of unexcused absences

Simple really

October 26th, 2011
5:45 pm

The fast food industry would fight it tooth and nail but many countries have an 18
years old requirement to drive. We should have it, too.

Once Again

October 26th, 2011
5:50 pm

Inman Park Boy – What the hell does bourbon have to do with my comment? My point was that the government school system is now determining whether your child can drive based on their compliance with their ridiculous mandatory attendance laws. Homeschool your children, teach them to be independent thinkers, teach them to actually learn how to learn, and keep the government control freakes out of your life as much as possible.

Once Again

October 26th, 2011
5:53 pm

And age has little to no bearing on one’s ability to drive. You need only go out on the roads to see that. There are kids who drive vehicles on private land such as farms, etc. who can probably drive perfectly well at 15 and there are plenty of kids whose parents have allowed only the government schools to teach their kids how to drive, have given them no practice, no detailed instruction, no attention whatsoever who will be driving at the arbitrary age the government has decided upon and will suck at it.

Larry Major

October 26th, 2011
7:24 pm

@Once Again – you best read up on state law because home schooled kids are NOT exempt; they need a certificate of attendance issued by the BOE just like kids enrolled in public schools.


October 26th, 2011
7:53 pm

I think Jennifer Falk has brought up some excellent questions.


October 26th, 2011
10:31 pm

Has any consideration been given to Gwinette being number one due to the start time of their high schools? Most of their schools start between 7:00 and 7:20 am. Many studies have demonstrated that a teen’s biological clock does not work well for early mornings. I have also heard students say that 1 minute tardy counts for the same penalty as an hour late or even out altogether so why hurry into school when you know you are going to be late? I agree that this helps keep students in school and on time, but I am not sure that suspending driving privileges accomplishes a lot either. Students who don’t want to be there to learn are more likely to be disrupting or sleeping through class anyway.

Saw it enforced

October 26th, 2011
10:34 pm

As a teacher in a school where this was enforced, I had to deal with the unintended consequences. Students showed up just to keep their license and they had no intention of doing any work. (Unless you consider socializing and causing disruptions.) I always felt that maintaining a 2.0 semester GPA should be attached. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Ole Guy

October 26th, 2011
11:50 pm

Howbout lets stop fooling ourselves. You know damn well that, for a generation steeped in the complete void of meaningful consequence, the withholding of a piece of paper don’t mean a thing. SOMEDAY, you good people might just (re)acquire some judgement and common sense. You skip school, you get your six warmed up…”Now sit in your desk, shut up, and MAYBE you’ll learn something”!

Good Mother

October 27th, 2011
10:37 am

I think it’s a good policy when used with discretion, particularly if the policy included tardies. It takes a lot of temptation away. It’s so easy for a sixteen year old to get their license and pick up other kids on the way to school just to have fun or be cool — and then stop by McDonalds and then go hang out somewhere and get into trouble. As long as there is a school bus to ride, if a kid is late, do him or her a favor by yanking their license or perhaps allow a restricted license — one that only allows the kid to drive to work at certain hours. There is a lot of common sense to this law because even traditionally good kids can be tempted with a car. It’s a huge deal to a sixteen year old.


October 28th, 2011
6:35 pm

What I don’t understand is this?! Why is it that coaches in high schools can pull student athletes away from class time to go to travel to Away games and this is not considered skipping school and there is no consequence to the coaches for doing this? And why do administrations allow this. This would be a great story idea Maureen. Start questioning schools about how much class time/instructional time is lost when a school has to send their student athletes to an away game.


October 28th, 2011
7:50 pm

Ok if students have 10 unexcused absences and lose their Drivers Licenses. What about the principal who is never at school.For example, In order for a principal to recieve his/her pay they must work a certain amount of days per year and they have to work certain amount of holidays in order to get in his/her days. This is so true with the so called year around school or some systems do not call it year round they call it Fall Break, Winter Break, Spring Break (each is a week long). Plus this does not count the Holidays. You see the principals and assistants principals, if they are on a twelve month contract, they are to work these (Break) days inorder to earn their money. Most systems who are doing this are not doing anything about this. To me that is cheating time. But you see if the superintendent is doing he/she are certainly not going to report the principals or assistants for cheating you out of your tax dollar. Therefore, I say revoke their licenses. They were not at school and they were cheating time.
You taxpayers need to you at your school calendar. Find out who is on a 11 or 12 month contract.
A person on a 11 month contract must work 20 days after school is out. The 12 month employee (certified) must work 40 days after school is out. Which means after the 180 student days. You see they can not meet their contract obligations of days worked. But. their pay has not been changed. Their pay should be adjusted. This a BIG GAME with the (but not all) Superintendents and Principals. THEREFORE, TAKE THEIR LICENSES AWAY JUST LIKE THE STATE DOES THE STUDENTS. Many students can not afforded to go to the doctor everytime they have a cold and I sure do not want them sitting next to my child spread the flu or cold bug. Funerals are a must when a loved one dies so those should be excused. I could go on an on…. I remember in the 6o’s and 70’s when farmer work was considered an excused absences especially in the fall and spring and no one questioned that one. So, lets get some common sense concerning excused absences. If I were in school today I would probably opt for home schooling or private school from my parents. You see it is not seat time that makes an exceptional and outstanding student it is the knowledge the teacher is imparting to the student. And, I know we have excellent teachers today. But, you have got to face the facts..there are many administrators who should not have become administrators and the same with a small percentage of teachers.
So If a students have been out to much to get credit, go ahead and fail the students but leave his private life alone.


October 28th, 2011
8:08 pm

This is also like the Saturday school for students to make up work for the days they missed during the semester. This only puts the burden on the teachers. What happen to school policies which stated if you are out of school you have 3 days to make up your work. If a student makes up his/her work in this fashion, there is not reason for Saturday School. And, who can bring kids back and forth. If this is a requirement of the school, then it is their responsibility to provide the ride. Why does the State have to step in do the work for the school system. Have more discipline, get a book for the classroom students, and have the teacher teach. No matter what anyone says Benjamin BLOOM still works. If you have never heard of him, look at his taxonomy for learning. It worked when he wrote it and it still works today if the teachers would implement it. Instead, some principal or teacher, superintendent or curriculum director goes to a workshop and are persauded to us some far fetched idea on how to teach certain things. And, in two years, they say of this did not work so we are backed to square one and spending more money on some cute ideas from some company. Give me a textbook and let me incorporate Benjamin Bloom HIgher Order Thinking Skills {Taxonomy) and your child will learn and not be absent for 10 days. Also, that is the reason so many of our systems do not meet AYP…you blame it on subgroups…well, they are not reaching their potential because they are not being taught the right way. Yes, let go back to teaching and the students will love to come and not be out so much. All Students CAN LEARN if given the opportunity to do so.


October 28th, 2011
8:20 pm

Also, due to the economy if parents said “my child will not get a drivers licenses until he/she is 18″, I am sure the State would start complaining because they would lose alot of money from the cost of licenses. If you read the fine print on the law, student can get the licenses back if he/she pays a so called fine. So there you go, more money for the state.

You are going to see alot of this nonsense from administrator. But remember they are just recycling what was done in another era inwhich it DID NOT WORK!

Ole Guy

October 29th, 2011
11:00 pm

Junkmonkey, in all fairness to principals’ periods of “absents”…executive level personnel generally conduct a great deal of work away from the work site. As one rises within the organizational hierarchy, one presumably has a broader base of delegation.

That being said, I am no fan of educational leadership. Given the tremendous amount of funding, the levels of (presumed) talent within the educational domain, and the extremely dismal levels of educational achievements within the Country, failures MUST first be assigned at the top. While these people are quick in convincing the public of the “failing schools/bad teachers” concept, they are all too happy to have something which diverts public attention from the real problem areas…PISS POOR LEADERSHIP!