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March 28, 2022

Education Questions and Answers

Video: Going to School

Q: Why do kids have to go to school? An elementary student from Maryland

A :Great question! So let’s start with how public school as we know it started. Prior to the Civil War, education was not widely accessible. Wealthy white families sent their children to private schools and poor white families went without education.

Enslaved Black people were prevented from getting an education by laws and could be jailed or fined if they tried to learn to read or write.

After the Civil War, enslaved Black people were freed, and there was a brief period known as Reconstruction, during which rights were restored for Black people such as the right to vote. Newly elected Black congressmen (who had themselves been denied educational opportunity) helped to shape the modern school system so that all children could go to school.

States were required to say how they would make sure that all children in the state received an education in their state constitutions. At the same time, states passed laws requiring children to go to school--known as “compulsory” education laws.

That’s why children have to go to school!

To learn more about why we all have to attend school in America, teachers can check out this great resource from the National Center for Education Statistics, which outlines state compulsory education laws and the age requirements (up to what age one must attend school):

Requiring school attendance is to help ensure that more students have access to education to prepare them for participation in our nation’s democracy.

In a more practical approach, the more education one has, the higher the lifetime salary and the more choices in jobs or careers are available.    

Your Rights if Both Parents are Deceased

Q: What are my rights when you’re around 18 and both of your parents die? What can you do and choose what to do? Kenneth from California

A: If you are under the age of 18 when your parents die, a court often will appoint an older, adult-aged sibling or another willing family member to be your new guardian. If there isn’t such a family member available and you were able to demonstrate that you could provide for yourself, you could also petition the court to be declared emancipated. Once you were declared an emancipated minor, you would not need a guardian and would be able to make decisions for yourself.

However, when you turn 18, you have reached the age of majority and are no longer legally considered a child. You gain many rights such as the ability to enter binding contracts, buy, sell, or inherit property, marry without the written consent of a guardian and judge, and more. This is true regardless of whether your parents are living or not. In other words, once you reach legal adulthood, you do not gain any additional legal rights when your parents die. In the event that both of your parents die after you have turned 18, you would not receive a new legal guardian because you would be considered a legal adult yourself. This would also be the case if you were declared an emancipated minor, as discussed above.

Practically speaking, you should be able to make decisions for arrangements such as funerals or management of assets. This largely relates to what your parents may dictate in their will—if they have one—in terms of who is responsible for their assets. This may be another trusted family member, or you: in this case, you retain the legal rights that you gained when you turned 18, such as to enter contracts, sell property, and more. For instance, as a legal adult, you have the right to inherit property that your parents may have left to you, and you can largely decide what to do with that inheritance. In short, you would be able to make decisions regarding your parents’ affairs such as a mortgage, debt, tax returns, or life insurance, and I would recommend reaching out to a lawyer to help you navigate these decisions. 

Teenagers and Working

Q: At what age can a teenager apply for a job and where can they work? Camila from California 

A: According to federal regulations, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), youths 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs under certain conditions.

Permissible work hours for 14- and 15-year-olds are:

  • 3 hours on a school day;
  • 18 hours in a school week;
  • 8 hours on a non-school day;
  • 40 hours in a non-school week; and
  • between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when night time work hours are extended to 9 p.m.

Additional federal resources are available at U.S. Department of Labor- Work Hours; however, keep in mind that child labor laws vary from state from state. Please consult your state department of labor for this information.

Teenager's Rights

Q: What are my rights as a teenager in high school? Ryan from California

A: We believe this publication by the State Bar of California answers this question for our student in California. While the document is designed as a guide for parents, it highlights "Kids and the Law". You might refer specifically the section of the document entitled: “School and School Rules.”

No Longer a Child

The following two questions discuss the transition between being considered a child versus an adult, and are answered together:

Q: How do rights change between ages such as between 17 to 18 years old or 20 to 21 years old? Makenna from California

Q: Until what age are your parents liable for your decisions? (I would assume it is 18 but things like insurance can be insured until 25 or 26.) Joel from California

A:  The age of majority refers to the age at which a person is no longer legally considered a child. This varies from state to state, with most states setting the age of majority at 18 years old. Since the question arose from a student in California, here is a great resource of  "When You Turn 18", created by the California Lawyer's Foundation, that answers the question for our students in California.

For health insurance coverage, as part of the Affordable Care Act, although you might have reached the age of majority, if you are considered a dependent of your parents, then the "Young Adult Coverage" offers a possible health insurance coverage through your parents until you turn 26 years old.


Q: Is it illegal to start living on your own at 17? Camila from California

A: Simple answer is that you must petition the court to be legally emancipated and to do so must demonstrate the ability to support yourself independently. Emancipation is a legal way for a child to become a legal adult. Eligibility and court procedures of the emancipation of minors varies from state to state.

Video: Police Officers on School Campus

Q: I live in Los Angeles, CA. Why are there Police Officers on my school campus? We are not criminals. ET from California

Police in schools are either selected from local police forces and placed in schools, or are hired to serve only schools (for example, some school districts have their own police departments). Police in schools are often known as School Resource Officers (SROs).

Police were originally placed in schools to keep schools secure and keep intruders out of the school. Over time, however, school police became involved in routine school discipline matters.

Increased interactions between students and school police have resulted in escalated responses to relatively minor discipline infractions, increased numbers of physical assaults on students, and created more tense school climates, particularly for students of color.

Research shows that schools with strong police presence have not been found to foster feelings of safety among students, but instead can foster disorder and distrust.

Increased interactions between students and police also increases students’ likelihood of being arrested, often for ordinary non-violent youth behaviors, contributing to what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Most school police officers are not trained in youth development and this can contribute to violent interactions between school police and students.

And just like in many communities of color, school police can hold biases (implicit or explicit) against students of color, which can influence their attitudes and interactions with them. For example, school police can have biased assumptions about students of color being more likely to commit discipline infractions.

1.6 million students attend a school with police, but not a school counselor. In a growing movement across the country, boards of education are choosing to remove police from their schools. Many of these schools are directing money to better ways of keeping students safe such as providing school counselors, mental health services and training for teachers and staff to help students better manage their emotions and behaviors.

Schools are removing police because they recognize that having police officers on campus can be detrimental to children, especially children of color, and because they realize that every adult in a school should be there solely to help students learn and thrive.