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Do my children have the right to attend school?

A. Mandatory Attendance

“YES”. In Ontario, the Education Act 1 says that every person between the ages of 6 and 18 (“students”) must attend school (elementary or secondary) on every school day.

Question - What if I am not a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or do not have immigration status, do my children still have the right to attend school?

“YES”. The Education Act applies to everyone regardless of your status in Canada.

In fact, the Education Act makes it against the law for a school to refuse to admit a child, under 18 years of age, into their school for the sole reason that, either the child or the child’s parent(s) and/or guardian(s) are unlawfully in Canada. 2

B. Parents Duty

Additionally, students’ parents and/or guardians need to be aware that they have a legal duty to make sure that the student(s) under their care attend school. 3

If the students’ parent(s) and/or guardians fail in their duty, they have committed an offence and can be fined unless the student is:

Lawfully excused from attending school; or

At least 16 years old and has withdrawn from parental control. 4

C. Lawful Reasons/Excuses for Not Attending School

The only lawful reasons or excuses for a student not attending school are if the student is:

    1. Receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere (home schooling);
    2. Sick or unable to attend due to another ‘unavoidable cause’;
    3. Unable to attend school because the student lives too far away from the nearest school and the school board does not provide any transportation;
    4. Receiving music lessons (*Note: student can be absent for a maximum of one ½ day of school per week.);
    5. Observing a religious holiday;
    6. A secondary school graduate or has an equivalent standing; or
    7. Suspended, expelled or excluded from attending school. 5


    1 Section 21(1) of the Education Act.

    2 Section 49.1 of the Education Act.

    3 Section 21(5) of the Education Act.

    4 Section 30(1) of the Education Act.

    5 Section 21(2) of the Education Act.

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