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Imagine that a 16 year old in Iowa is not attending any high school because their parents do not want them to. However, they do want to attend high school. Is it legal for the parents to stop them from attending, or do they have a legal right to education regardless of what the parents say?

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The child does not have a legal right to determine how Iowa's compulsory education law is obeyed. The first section of the law says that the

custodian of a child who is of compulsory attendance age shall cause the child to attend some public school or an accredited nonpublic school, or place the child under competent private instruction or independent private instruction

and no other provision gives the child veto power. However, on the upper end, a child "under sixteen years of age by September 15 is of compulsory attendance age", with thus turning 16 during the school year being subject to compulsory education until the end of the school year". Let's say that the child turned 16 on Labor Day, then the compulsory education law does not apply.

Still, until the age of majority, parents have the custodial right to make decisions in the best interests of the child. That right can be terminated, see Chapter 600a. Under certain circumstances, a child can petition the court for emancipation, which means that they will be treated as an adult under the law, and can therefore exercise their own judgment and live with the consequences. You would look at 600A.8 to see the grounds for termination – an objection "I don't like their choice of school" will not qualify.

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    Generally emancipation would only be granted if the child has the means to support him/herself. Something which is not possible for many children.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 15, 2022 at 15:15

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