Coronavirus: compulsory school attendance still applies – what are the penalties??

Compulsory schooling has been in place in Germany for around 100 years, and is defined in more detail at the state level. Even though the obligation to attend school in person has been lifted in recent weeks due to the Corona crisis, there are now penalties if children continue to stay away from school.

Since when is compulsory education in Germany?

The first forms of compulsory schooling existed in Germany as early as the 16th century. Since 1919, compulsory schooling has been in effect throughout Germany, initially in the Weimar Reichsverfassung (Imperial Constitution). Children and young people are obliged to go to school for a certain period of their lives.

For whom does compulsory education apply?

Full-time compulsory education in Germany generally applies to all students until they complete their ninth year of school, although some states require ten or even twelve years of compulsory schooling. Compulsory education affects attendance, enrollment and school choice.

Compulsory school attendance despite the Corona crisis?

Compulsory education is still in effect during the Corona crisis: "When schools or certain levels of schools reopen and school children are to be re-enrolled, compulsory education is still in effect and parents must send their children to school.", says Wilhelm Achelpohler, a specialist lawyer for administrative law in Munster, in response to an inquiry from

However, there are exceptions: For example, if the child itself or family members belong to a risk group for covid-19. "Beyond the exemptions, however, if parents don’t want their child to return to school despite compulsory attendance precisely because they think the risk is too great or believe the school can’t comply with hygiene and distance rules, they must take legal action against it, as one family from Hesse did, for example. Simply not sending the child to school without taking the legal route is of course not possible", explains Achelpohler.

When is an exemption from compulsory school attendance?

In order to suspend compulsory school attendance, important reasons are required. Which are acceptable, the school itself decides on the basis of the respective state school law and corresponding ordinances. Children can be briefly exempted from compulsory school attendance for weddings or funerals, religious festivals or medical appointments, for example. Participation in TV shows or an extended family vacation, on the other hand, do not count as important reasons.

In the case of the Corona crisis, it may be a valid reason if the child himself or close relatives belong to one of the Covid-19 risk groups. In Hesse, for example, compulsory education was suspended for fourth graders during the Corona crisis.

Violation of compulsory education: These penalties threaten

More frequent absences can result in a fine ranging from 30 euros per day absent to several thousand euros in total, depending on the state. In extreme cases, even custody rights can be restricted in the event of a breach of compulsory education.

These fines can be imposed by the federal states:

  • Baden-Wurttemberg: per day of absence between 50 and 300 euros
  • Bavaria: total up to 1.000 euros possible
  • Berlin: total up to 2.500 Euro possible
  • Brandenburg: total up to 2.500 Euro possible
  • Bremen: 35 euros per day of absence
  • Hamburg: 150 euros per day of absence, in repeated cases 200 euros per day
  • Hesse: 100 euros per day of absence, 150 euros per day after the first warning
  • Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: total up to 2.500 euros
  • Lower Saxony: total up to 1.000 euros possible
  • North Rhine-Westphalia: between 80 and 150 euros per day of absence
  • Rhineland-Palatinate: no consequences for a single truancy, in case of repetition up to 500 euros
  • Saarland: total up to 500 euros possible
  • Saxony: total up to 1.250 euros
  • Saxony-Anhalt: total up to 1.000 euros
  • Schleswig-Holstein: total up to 1.000 euros, varying according to city and district
  • Thuringia: In total up to 1.500 euros
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In principle, however, not only a fine threatens. In Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, students may even be prosecuted. In that case, they can face a fine of up to 180 daily rates or even imprisonment for up to six months.

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