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Family 'Ostracized' & Fined $600 For Taking Kids Out Of School To Save $10,000 On A Vacation

Photo: Paul Benson / Facebook 
family vacation, fined

When a set of parents decided to take their children on a family vacation to Disney World during the school year, they were shocked at the consequences they were met with from the school board. 

Now, the father is calling on school councils to be more “fair” with parents after he claims that they ruined their holidays. 

The parents pulled their two children out of school for two weeks to go to Disney World. 

35-year-old Paul Benson and his wife Jessica from Redcar, North Yorkshire have limited time to go on family vacations with their three children, 12-year-old Ruby, 10-year-old George, and two-year-old Olive. The two eldest children are in school year-round and Jessica works as an operating department practitioner in the NHS.

After the pandemic, Paul claims that taking time off during school breaks has grown “very competitive” and that it is not always guaranteed. “She couldn't really take time off during the holidays,” Paul told Daily Mail. 

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Therefore, Paul and Jessica opted to take some time off work in September 2022, shortly after the children’s school term started, and jet off to the U.S. for a two-week family trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This is not the first time the family has taken a vacation during the same time period. In September 2018, they went to Disney World as well. 

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The family was able to save around $10,000 by traveling during the school year. 

In addition to low crowds and fantastic weather in Florida in September, families traveling to Disney World can save a good chunk of money since it is not peak season. Paul claims that he and Jessica managed to save nearly 10,000 U.S. dollars by taking their vacation during this time, which is quite a steal since anyone who has been to Disney World can tell you that it is definitely not cheap. 

While the family appeared to enjoy their vacations, they were met with backlash from the school board and teachers at the children’s school. “Teachers would remind us and say it's affecting their education, and their education would suffer as a result,” Paul says, arguing that this was not entirely true. “But our eldest child was one of the top performers in her SATS. So it contradicted what they were saying all the way along. We just found it a massive blow to us.” 

He says that the children were “ostracized” at their schools and they were made to feel as if taking time off school for vacation was a “criminal activity.”

Additionally, the family believed that they were being shamed for going on vacation in September since it was more cost-effective. “My wife said to me it feels like only the privileged people can have a holiday - the super earners who can afford to go. It's not an equal opportunity,” Paul shares. 

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The parents were fined $600 by the school for the vacations. 

Before both trips, he says that teachers had warned him against taking his children out of school before they informed Redcar and Cleveland, who issue fines for non-attendance and unauthorized vacations. Just before Christmas 2022, the family received two fines in the mail equivalent to around $600 for their children’s absences.

Paul admits that the shocking delivery put a damper on their Christmas holidays. “It was a massive sting trying to get Christmas presents, and then you get that massive fine coming through the door,” he says. 

Paul is calling on school boards to be more lenient with students missing school, even if the absences are unexcused. “I think it needs to be done more fair. I've got some friends with kids at different schools and councils and the teachers have a different approach,” he says. In fact, he points out that the trips proved to be educational for his children since they learned about other cultures and experienced new things.

In many countries, there are laws or regulations in place to enforce compulsory education, which requires children to attend school for a certain number of days or hours per year.

In cases where children consistently miss school without valid reasons or excessive absences occur, some jurisdictions may impose penalties on parents as a means of encouraging regular attendance. 

These penalties do not always necessarily mean fines. Some schools issue written warnings or counseling. The primary goal is to ensure that children receive adequate education and have the opportunity to fulfill their academic potential. 

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.