Last Updated on March 29, 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:
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]
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 SARB 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, which involves various agencies outside the school, and is hard to avoid. If a SARB attendance contract is not followed, it could lead to court action against the family and student for truancy.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.