My friend has a child in elementary school, and he goes to a public school. Apparently, at the end of the school day, if the parents are late picking up their kids, the school charges them $10/minute that they are late. So, if a parent gets caught in traffic and is 10 minutes late, that would be a $100 fine. And we live in Atlanta, Georgia where unexpected fluctuations in traffic can sometimes strand you for close to an hour or more. If that were to happen, and a parent were an hour late to pick up their kid, that would be $600! This sounded very dubious to me. Do public schools really have the legal standing to fine parents like this?

I found this question but I didn't see any reference to money/fines.


  • Generally, there should be a 10-15 minute grace period. I just found a 15 minute grace period for Atlanta metro public schools from a 2014-15 student handbook.
    – mkennedy
    Oct 20, 2017 at 23:22
  • in my experience in education department i think no Oct 21, 2017 at 14:45
  • Thanks, is there any way to find out for sure? I imagine I could probably call a lawyer and ask, but what kind of lawyer would that be? Is there such a thing as an "Education" lawyer?
    – Yurelle
    Oct 22, 2017 at 15:46
  • 2
    No, but they might refuse to let a kid graduate until all fines are paid. The school day is over--what is the school supposed to do if a kid isn't picked up?
    – mkennedy
    Oct 23, 2017 at 19:08
  • 1
    Not the specific situation in question, but my wife used to be a preschool teacher and it was an ongoing struggle to get parents to pick up their kids on time. What parents didn't realize is that the teachers may have other obligations (other jobs, meetings, other classes to teach, etc.) that are all negatively impacted if they are forced to wait for parents to come. Yes, there are emergencies, but it was the habitual offenders that were frustrating. They started a similar penalty system for late pickups (with a grace time and at 1-2 "freebies") and it was amazing what a change it made.
    – Milwrdfan
    Oct 27, 2017 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


I found a number of news stories and official documents about public schools with such policies including:

The last story is about a school that threatened to call the local child protection authorities to take children into custody if parents were late, even by a short time. This was rescinded and apologized for.

None of these stories mentioned any source of authority to impose such fines, nor any parent who had legally contested such fines. Public schools do not generally have authority to fine parents unless a law or ordinance grants such authority. Usually a school would need to file a report with law enforcement, and any fine be imposed by a court. But it may well be that parents are simply paying in such cases, rather than insisting on legal authority. If a student is left unsupervised, a school would pretty clearly have the right, and in some cases the duty, to notify the police or the appropriate child protection agency. Parents might fear that resisting the fines would lead to that far more drastic response, and so not challenge any fine.

I did not include any of several news stories about similar practices in the UK, as the legal basis would be different there. But there were several such stories.

There were also several stories suggesting that such fines can be counterproductive. It seems that some parents tend to come to regard them as fees, and are perfectly willing to pay, and the fine replaces the feeling of social obligation which might have been stronger. But that is not really a matter of law.

  • 2
    Thank you, sir. That was exactly what I was looking for.
    – Yurelle
    Mar 26, 2019 at 16:25

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