Attendance and Truancy
Encouraging school attendance is one of the most important ways you can help prepare your child for academic success.
Research from Johns Hopkins University found that students who exhibit regular school attendance early on often see improved grades, learning skills and overall behavior. Parent involvement has a positive and direct impact on school attendance.
We know that there are a wide range of reasons that students are absent from school, from health concerns to transportation challenges. Whatever the reason, our staff are prepared to help with the challenges and getting your student to school regularly and on-time.
State Law requires that we track attendance daily, to notice when your student is missing from class, communicate with you to understand why they were absent, and to identify barriers and supports available to overcome challenges facing you and your student.
School Policies and State Law
It is important that you understand both our school policy and procedure, and Washington State Law, to ensure your child is successful in school. State law for mandatory attendance, called the Becca Bill, requires children from age 8 to 18 to attend a public school, private school, or a district-approved home school program. Children that are 6 or 7 years-old are not required to be enrolled in school. However, if parents enroll their 6- or 7-year-old, the student must attend full-time.
What is the BECCA Law?
The BECCA Law, established in 1995, requires that a student has no more than seven (7) unexcused absences in a month or fifteen (15) during a school year. Originally, the law covered 8-18-year-old youth but was expanded in July 1999 to include parents of 6 and 7-year-olds. In February 2012, the upper age was reduced to 17.
If a student meets this criterion, the district or the student’s home school, is mandated to file a truancy petition with the Juvenile Court. If the student does not return to school or has even one more unexcused absence, the district and/or school building will refer the student to the Community Engagement Board.
History and Programs:
In 1993, a 13-year-old runaway named Rebecca Hedman (BECCA) was murdered in Spokane, far from her home in Tacoma. In 1995, a group of parents and legislators came together and successfully pushed for and passed legislation to prevent situations like this from happening again. The so-called “BECCA Bill” addresses several areas of public policy, including those affecting truant, at-risk, and runaway youth.
All youth between the ages of 8-18 are required to attend school every day. When these youth fail to attend their assigned schools, they are considered truant.
At-Risk Youth (ARY)
An at-risk youth is defined by statute as a child under the age of 18 who meets at least one of the following three requirements:
- Is absent from home for at least 72 consecutive hours without parental consent.
- Is beyond parental control such that the child’s behavior endangers the health, safety or welfare of the child or any other person.
- Has a substance abuse problem for which there are no pending criminal charges relating to the substance abuse.
The purpose of the At-Risk Youth program is to allow parents a process in which they can request and receive assistance and support from the court in maintaining the care, custody and control of their child.
Child In Need of Services (CHINS)
A child in need of services is defined by statute as a child under the age of 18 who meets at least one of the following three requirements:
- Is beyond parental control such that the child’s behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or other person.
- Has been reported to law enforcement as absent without consent for at least 24 consecutive hours from the parent’s home, a crisis residential center, an out-of-home placement, or a court-ordered placement on two or more separate occasions and has exhibited a serious substance abuse problem or behaviors that create a serious risk of hard to the health, safety or welfare of the child or any other person.
- Is in need of necessary services, including food, shelter, health care, clothing, educational, or services designed to maintain or reunite the family and lacks access to or has declined to utilize these services, and who parents have evidenced continuing but unsuccessful efforts to maintain the family structure or are unable or unwilling to continue efforts to maintain the family structure.
The purpose of CHINS is to get a court order requiring temporary placement (for up to nine months) of a child in a residence other than the home of his/her parent. The need for placement must be based on a serious conflict between the parent and the child and cannot be resolved as long as the child remains at home. A child, parent or Department of Children Youth and Families may file a CHINS petition.
Did You Know?
- Starting in kindergarten, too many absences (excused and unexcused) can cause children to fall behind in school.
- Missing 10 percent (or about 18 days) increases the chance that your student will not read or master math at the same level as their peers.
- Students can still fall behind if they miss just a day or two days every few weeks.
- Being late to school may lead to poor attendance.
- Absences can affect the whole classroom if the teacher has to slow down learning to help children catch up.
- By 6th grade, absenteeism is one of three signs that a student may drop out of high school.
- By being present at school, your child learns valuable social skills and has the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with other students and school staff.
- Absences can be a sign that a student is losing interest in school, struggling with schoolwork, dealing with a bully, or facing some other potentially serious difficulty.
- By 9th grade, regular and high attendance is a better predictor of graduation rates than 8th grade test scores.