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"A" is For Attendance
By Andrew W. Li on August 4, 2017

The growing number of “Back To School” sales at this time of year makes many a student groan, “But summer just started!” Usually, those vocal complaints are a student’s only expressions of dismay -- but what happens when a student takes it upon themselves to “extend” their summer vacation and fails to attend school?

Student attendance implicates a wide variety of issues for school districts, ranging from the administrative (such as district obligations to transfer student records) to the substantive (such as unilateral placements and special education obligations) to student safety (district reporting requirements for suspected instances of abused, missing or neglected children) to the potentially criminal (truancy, juvenile delinquency and possible criminal charges and/or fines for parents).

In light of these concerns, you should be aware that Titles 18A and 6A imposes certain affirmative responsibilities on school districts for students who are repeatedly absent from school:

Number of Unexcused Cumulative Absences

District Response

4 or less

(1) Make a reasonable attempt to notify parents of an unexcused absence before the start of the next school day;

(2) Make a reasonable attempt to determine the cause of the unexcused absence;

(3) Identify action needed to address patterns of unexcused absences and maintain regular attendance;

(4) Identify and report potential missing or abused child situations; and

(5) Cooperate with law enforcement and other authorities and agencies, as appropriate

5 to 9

(1) Make a reasonable attempt to notify parents of an unexcused absence before the start of the next school day;

(2) Make a reasonable attempt to determine the cause of the unexcused absence;

(3) Evaluate the appropriateness of prior action taken;

(4) Develop an action plan to establish interventions, including any or all of the following:

(A) Referral to intervention and referral services;

(B) Testing, assessments or evaluations of academic, behavioral and health needs;

(C) Alternate educational placement;

(D) Referral to community-based social and health provider resources;

(E) Referral to a court or court program for truancy;

(F) Report a potential missing or abused child situation; and

(G) Engagement with the student’s family.

(5) Cooperate with law enforcement and other authorities and agencies, as appropriate.

10    or more

Students between the ages of 6 and 16 with 10 or more unexcused absences may be considered truant!

(1) Determine the need for a court referral for truancy;

(2) Continue to consult with the parent and the involved agencies to support the student’s return to school and regular attendance;

(3) Cooperate with law enforcement and other authorities and agencies, as appropriate; and

(4) Proceed in accordance with applicable State and Federal laws regarding compulsory attendance

For students with a disability, any attendance plan (including punitive and remedial procedures) must be applied in accordance with that student’s individualized education program, accommodation plan and/or individualized healthcare plan and individualized emergency healthcare plan.

 Keep in mind that, for out-of-district placements, any students with 5 or more cumulative unexcused absences must be reported to the sending school district, which in turn must follow the procedures set forth above.

 School districts would be well-advised to review and examine their attendance policies and practices before the beginning of the school year. You should know where your students are, and know what to do when you don’t!

 For more information, please contact Parker McCay's school law attorneys.

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