(Video courtesy of Jeffrey Lee, fifth-grade teacher at Sacajawea Elementary)
Student welfare and attendance:
Did you know?
- Your children can suffer academically if they miss 10 percent of school days in a year, or about 18 days. That can be just one day every two weeks and can happen before you know it.
- It doesn’t matter if these absences are excused or unexcused. They all represent lost time in the classroom and lost opportunities to learn.
- Attendance matters as early as kindergarten. Studies show many children who miss too many days in kindergarten and first grade can struggle academically in later years. They often have trouble mastering reading by the end of third grade.
- Preschool is a great time to start building a habit of good attendance. Studies show that poor attendance in preschool can predict absenteeism in later grades.
- By middle and high school, chronic absence is a leading warning sign that a student will drop out.
All students between the ages of 8 and under 18 years are required by Washington state law to attend school regularly. If a parent or guardian enrolls a child at 6 or 7 years of age, the child is required by law to attend the full school session. To ensure compliance, each school takes regular attendance and the district has set a policy for excused and unexcused absences.
Parents or guardians must provide the school with an excuse for any absence, late arrival or early departure in the form of a note, email, phone call, in Skyward Family Access, or personal contact with school officials. (Please refer to your child’s individual school student handbook.) Any absence not properly explained within three days of the student returning to school will not be excused without approval from an administrator.
The following are valid excuses for absences and tardiness:
- Illness, health condition or medical appointment (including, but not limited to, medical, counseling, dental, optometry, pregnancy, and in-patient or out-patient treatment for chemical dependency or mental health) for the student or person for whom the student is legally responsible;
- Family emergency including, but not limited to, a death or illness in the family;
- Religious or cultural purpose including observance of a religious or cultural holiday or participation in religious or cultural instruction;
- Court, judicial proceeding, court-ordered activity, or jury service;
- Post-secondary, technical school or apprenticeship program visitation, or scholarship interview;
- State-recognized search and rescue activities consistent with RCW 28A.225.055;
- Absence directly related to the student’s homeless or foster care/dependency status;
- Absences related to deployment activities of a parent or legal guardian who is an active duty member consistent with RCW 28A.705.010;
- Absences due to suspensions, expulsions or emergency expulsions imposed pursuant to chapter 392-400 WAC if the student is not receiving educational services and is not enrolled in qualifying “course of study” activities as defined in WAC 392-121-107;
- Absences due to student safety concerns, including absences related to threats, assaults, or bullying;
- Absences due to a student’s migrant status; and
- An approved activity that is consistent with district policy and is mutually agreed upon by the principal or designee and a parent, guardian, or emancipated youth.
All other absences will be considered unexcused and can affect a student’s grades. It may result in a petition being filed in juvenile court for truancy (Please refer to your child’s individual school student handbook).
Parents will be asked to provide documentation for an absence.
Families should contact their school to create an academic plan for prearranged absences (for vacation, extended leave due to health or family matters).
Absences of five or more days in a month due to illness or other health conditions require a note from a doctor or appropriate medical provider.
The school district will take the following action related to unexcused absences.
- On the first unexcused absence in any month, the school will notify the parent by phone or in writing of the student’s absence and of potential consequences for further unexcused absences.
- After three (3) unexcused absences within any month of the current school year, a conference will be held between the principal, student and parent to analyze the causes of the student’s absenteeism. If a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference is scheduled to take place within thirty (30) days of the third (3rd) unexcused absence, the district may schedule the attendance conference on the same day. If the parent/guardian does not attend the scheduled conference, the conference may be conducted with the student and principal. However, the parent will be notified of the steps to be taken to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences.
- Not later than the student’s fifth (5th) unexcused absence in a month the district will enter into an agreement with the student and parents that establishes school attendance requirements, refer the student to a community truancy board or file a petition and affidavit with the juvenile court alleging a violation of RCW 28A.225.010.
- At some point after the second (2nd) and before the fifth (5th) unexcused absence, the district will take data-informed steps to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences:
- Elementary School: The district will schedule a conference with the parent to identify barriers, supports and resources, and enter into an agreement with the student and parents/guardians that establishes school attendance requirements.
- Middle school and high school: These steps will include application of the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students (WARNS) or other assessment by the district’s designated employee, and enter into an agreement with the student and parents/guardians that establishes school attendance requirements.
- Not later than a student’s seventh (7th) unexcused absence within any month during the current school year, or a tenth (10th) unexcused absence during the current school year, if the district’s attempts to substantially reduce a student’s absences have not been successful and if the student is under the age of seventeen (17), the district will file a petition and supporting affidavit for a civil action in juvenile court.