The Ewells are one of the poorest families in town. Their father, Bob Ewell spends the family's government relief check on "green whiskey," according to Atticus, and the local authorities allow the family to have exceptions to certain local laws.
One of those laws states that the children must be in school, but the "truant lady" only ensures that they arrive at school on the first day. The students tell Miss Caroline Fisher that she is to mark them absent the rest of the year, because they'll never show up again.
Another exception that authorities and local citizens make for the Ewell clan is allowing them to hunt game out of season and on other people's property. It is the community's opinion that if their father can gather game for the family to eat, no one should deprive them of what little they get.
Officially speaking, the Ewell children have to be enrolled in school since there is a law for compulsory primary education. But the sheriff and the school officials "bend the rules" and let them return home since the family's survival depends upon all their children's help on the farm.
Burris Ewell comes to school on the first day to be counted "present" and shocks Miss Caroline when a cootie crawls out of his hair.
They are the poorest family in the town and they have to be in school. However a lady assures it so they only have to come one day. Once they show up they leave for the rest of the year never coming to class. Bob spends a lot of money on alcohol and other exceptions are made for this family as well, for example, hunting out of season as well as on other's property.