Studies show children who miss too many days in kindergarten and first grade can struggle academically in later years. They often have trouble mastering reading by the end of third grade.
By middle and high school, chronic absence is a leading warning sign that a student will drop out.
Students are considered chronically absent if they miss 10% of school days…. That’s only two days a month.
If your student is going to be absent from school, communicate with the school in advance. An academic plan may be needed to keep your student on track.
While attendance is very important, please keep your child home if they are truly sick. See the Too Sick for School? page for more information.
Parents and guardians can help support regular attendance by:
- Avoiding extended vacations that require your children to miss school.
- Trying to line up vacations and doctor’s appointments with the school’s schedule.
- Setting a regular bedtime and morning routine allowing for 9 to 11 hours of sleep for younger students and 8 to 10 hours of sleep for older students.
- Laying out clothes and packing backpacks the night before to make your morning routines run more smoothly.
Why is regular attendance important?
Students who aren’t in school miss important learning. Missing just two days of school a month for any reason – illness, excused or unexcused absence – can affect student performance. Research has found a correlation between chronic or excessive absenteeism, whether excused or unexcused, and lower assessment scores and lower graduation rates.
What is an excused absence?
Under state law, student absences will be considered excused for the following reasons:
- The student is participating in a district- or school-approved activity;
- The student is ill or has a health condition or medical appointment;
- The student has a family emergency;
- The student is absent due to the observance of a religious or cultural holiday;
- The student is involved in a court, judicial proceeding, or is serving on a jury;
- The student is participating in a post-secondary, technical school, or apprenticeship program visitation or scholarship interview;
- The student is participating in a state-recognized search and rescue activity;
- The student is absent due to an issue directly related to their homeless status;
- The student is absent related to the deployment activities of a parent or legal guardian who is on active duty;
- The student is absent due to school discipline; or
- The student is absent due to an activity that the principal and parent mutually approve of.
School principals have the authority to determine if an absence meets any of these criteria.
How do I inform the school when my student is absent?
Parents or guardians should notify the school in person, by phone, or in writing/email within 48 hours of an absence if they want it to be considered an excused absence.
When should I keep my student home?
There are times when your student may be too sick for school. The district and King County Department of Public Health work together to help keep children from spreading communicable disease. Keeping children home when they are too sick for school protects other students and staff from potential illness. Guidelines on the Too Sick for School? page will help you determine if your student has symptoms that warrant keeping them home from school.
What is the difference between chronic absenteeism and truancy?
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% of the school year. Missing just two days of school a month adds up to18 days over the school year.
Under state law, elementary schools are required to conference with parents/guardians when an elementary student has five absences for any reason in a month or ten absences over the course of the year. The purpose of the conference is to identify the barriers to the student’s regular attendance. The conference will also identify supports and resources that may be made available to the family so that the student is able to regularly attend school.
Truancy is defined as when students miss school without a valid excuse.
Under Washington state’s truancy law, the school/district are required to take specific actions when students are truant.
- Parents will be notified in writing or by phone after one unexcused absence in a month.
- A parent conference will be initiated after two unexcused absences in a month in order to improve the student’s attendance.
- The parent and school must enter into a contract to improve the student’s attendance after five unexcused absences in a month, or the case may be referred to a Community Truancy Board.
- The school district may file truancy petitions with the juvenile court after seven unexcused absences in a month, or ten unexcused absences in an academic year.
How should I handle situations when our student will be absent for an extended time?
Ideally students are in school every day. When parents or guardians need to take their student out of town, they should make arrangements with the school for the absence. Provisions should be made by the parent for some program of study so that the student is not too far behind the instructional program on his/her return to school.
What is the best way to monitor my student’s attendance?
Parents and guardians can monitor their student’s absences through FamilyAccess.
I received a letter or email from my student’s school informing me that my child is chronically absent or truant. What do I need to do to help my student?
If you receive a letter from the school, please contact them to conference or set up a meeting to discuss your student’s attendance. If your student is truant, you can find more information about the state’s truancy laws here:
Guide to Preventing Truancy and Understanding the Becca Bill
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