Law Office of Michelle Ball attendance/truancy,Ed 48900s Why Is My Child A Truant? Now What?

Why Is My Child A Truant? Now What?


school truancy rules

Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Being labelled a “truant” (a student breaching the laws mandating school attendance) can be devastating to a family. The truancy process may lead to uncomfortable meetings with school officials or even a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) hearing with a rigorous contract imposed on the family and even court action.  Student truancy and a SARB hearing are definitely something to be avoided if possible.  As such, the law of what makes a student truant must be understood by parents.

What Is A Truant?

California Education Code section 48260 describes the definition of a truant student:

Truancy students school
Students are required to attend school from ages 6-18 in California and can get in trouble for cutting.

a)  Any pupil who is subject to compulsory education, AND
b)  Who is absent from school without valid excuse,
c)  Within one school year for:
1)  Three full days OR
2)  Tardy more than 30 minutes during the school day OR

3) Absent three times for more than 30 minutes, OR
4)  Any combination of the above

Shall be classified as a truant.

Will My Child Be Labeled a Truant Student?

Districts vary on the strictness with which they pursue students with unexcused absences as truants.

Some districts let students accumulate more than 3 unexcused absences without comment.  Other districts are rabid on enforcement, and label students truant immediately once the 3 unexcused absence threshold has been reached.

Notification of Student’s Truant Status

Once a district decides to label a student a “truant,” they are supposed to notify the parent or guardian. Although notification used to be required by mail, districts now can notify parents by the most cost efficient method possible, including via email and/or telephone, of the following items:

a)  The pupil is a truant.
b)  The parent or guardian is obligated to compel the attendance of the pupil at school.
c)  The parent or guardian may be guilty of an infraction and subject to prosecution if they do not compel attendance.
d)  Alternative educational programs for attendance are available.
e)  The parent or guardian has the right to meet with school personnel to discuss the pupil’s truancy.
f)  The pupil may be subject to prosecution.
g)  Pupils between 13-18 year of age may have their driving privileges suspended, restricted, or delayed.
h)  The parent or guardian is recommended to attend school with the student for 1 day.
[see California Education Code 48260.5]

Girl truant school student
Parents should fight student truancy issues before they end up at SARB

Notification of student truancy issues IS MANDATORY so parents must check email, mail, and/or phone messages and respond appropriately to any truancy letter or notice of school or SARB truancy meetings.

Parents Should Not Ignore Student Truancy Allegations

If parents do not respond promptly to address the alleged school truancy situation or allegations, they may be pushed toward a student truancy hearing.  It usually is better to try to resolve student truancy issues at the school district level rather than to let SARB step in and impose an attendance contract.

A SARB student attendance contract involves various agencies outside the school, and is binding on a parent and student. If a SARB attendance contract is not followed, it could lead to court action against the family and student for truancy.

Contact with the school to try to prevent the issues from moving to the SARB level is important and parents should act fast to stop truancy allegations from getting worse.


Student truancy defense attorney Michelle Ball helps parents with SARB, truancy, attendance, and other school allegations that can damage a student and family. As a school discipline and truancy lawyer for students in Sacramento California, Michelle can help families statewide in areas such as Sant Ana, Palmdale, Carmel, Glendale, Torrance, Visalia, Auburn, Elk Grove, Natomas, and many other locations.