Monday, January 17, 2011

Is My Child A Truant?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Being labelled a "truant" (a pupil breaching the laws mandating school attendance) can be devastating to a family.  The process may lead to 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.  This is definitely something to be avoided if possible.  As such, the basics of what makes a student into a truant must be understood by parents and students.

California Education Code section 48260 sets forth the definition of a truant as follows:

a)  Any pupil who is subject to the compulsory education laws, AND
b)  Who is absent from school without valid excuse,
c)  Within one school year for:
1)  Three full days OR
2)  Three times for more than 30 minutes during the school day OR
3)  A combination of both (#c1 or c2)

If three unexcused absences occur in one school year, and the individual is between ages 6-18 not excused from attendance (e.g. attending private school, etc.), a school district may label a student a "truant."  See section 48260 and other truancy codes here:

Districts vary on the strictness with which they prosecute students with unexcused absences.  Some districts  let students accumulate more than 3 unexcused absences without comment.  Other districts are rabid on enforcement, and jump on students immediately once the 3 unexcused absence threshold has been reached.

Once a district decides to label a student a "truant," they are supposed to notify the parent or guardian of the below.  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)  The pupil's driving privileges may be 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- link is above]

Notification IS MANDATORY so be sure to check your email, mail, and/or phone messages and respond appropriately.

If parents do not respond promptly to address the alleged situation, they may be pushed toward a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) hearing.  It usually is better to try to resolve truancy issues at the school district level rather than to let SARB step in and impose a contract which if not followed could lead to court action against the family and student.

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page []. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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