Every state has “compulsory education” laws that require school attendance. In Georgia, that means children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend full-time school or a home study program until they graduate. Some students may drop out early, however. Below is a summary of the state’s requirements for staying in school, dropping out, and getting high school equivalency diplomas.
Requirements for Dropping Out Legally
Once students are at least 16 years old, Georgia law allows them to leave school before completing all of the requirements for a diploma, but only if they:
- have their parents’ written permission, and
- participate with their parents in a conference with school officials.
Without parental permission, students may not drop out until they turn 18 or become legally emancipated. (Ga. Code § 20-2-690.1(e).)
Costs of Dropping Out
Most people know that dropping out of school is likely to bring financial consequences down the road. But they might not realize that there could also be legal consequences. If students simply stop going to school before they graduate or meet the requirements for dropping out legally, they could face a range of penalties. (For details, see our article on what happens to truants and their parents in Georgia.)
High School Equivalency Tests
In Georgia, anyone who is at least 16 years old and isn’t currently enrolled in high school can take the general educational development (GED) test. However, those who aren’t yet 18 must enroll in a state-approved adult education program and receive approval before they can take the test. Anyone who passes the four-part test will earn a high school equivalency certificate, which is comparable to high school graduation. (See the Technical College System of Georgia’s GED page for more information about test requirements, costs, and how to register.)
Driving Without a Diploma
Dropouts generally can’t get a driver’s license in Georgia until they turn 18, unless they’ve received or are working on getting a GED diploma, or they’re enrolled in postsecondary education. (Ga. Code § 40-5-22(a.1)(1).)