Regular school attendance is essential for a student to make the most of his or her education—to benefit from teacher-led and school activities, to build each day’s learning on the previous day’s, and to grow as an individual. Absences from class may result in serious disruption of a student’s mastery of the instructional materials; therefore, the student and parent should make every effort to avoid unnecessary absences. Two state laws, one dealing with compulsory attendance, the other with attendance for course credit, are of special interest to students and parents.
What are the laws governing attendance?
State law requires that a student between the ages of six and 19 attend school, as well as any applicable accelerated instruction program, extended year program, or tutorial session, unless the student is otherwise excused from attendance or legally exempt.
A student who voluntarily attends or enrolls after his or her 19th birthday is required to attend each school day until the end of the school year and is subject to compulsory attendance laws, if the student is under 21 years old. In addition, if a student 19 or older has more than five unexcused absences in a semester the District may revoke the student’s enrollment. The student’s presence on school property thereafter would be unauthorized and maybe considered trespassing. [See policy FEA].
Students enrolled in prekindergarten or kindergarten are required to attend school.
State law requires attendance in an accelerated reading instruction program when kindergarten, first grade, or second grade students are assigned to such a program. Parents will be notified in writing if their child is assigned to an accelerated reading instruction program as a result of a diagnostic reading instrument.
A student in grades 3-8 will be required to attend any assigned accelerated instruction program, which may occur before or after school or during the summer, if the student does not meet the passing standards on the state assessment for his or her grade level and applicable subject area.
Exemptions to Compulsory Attendance
State law allows exemptions to the compulsory attendance requirements for several types of absences if the student makes up all work. These include the following activities and events:
- Religious holy days (requires proper documentation from church leader);
- Required court appearances;
- Activities related to obtaining United States citizenship;
- Service as an election clerk; and
- Documented health-care appointments, including absences for recognized services for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, if the student is absent only a portion of the school day. A note from the health-care provider must be submitted within 3 days of the student’s return to campus.
- Students 17 years of age or older pursuing enlistment in a branch of the U.S. armed services or Texas National Guard (max. 4 days- requires documentation)
In addition, a junior or senior student’s absence of up to two days related to visiting a college or university will be considered an exemption, provided the student receives approval from the campus principal, follows the campus procedures to verify such a visit, and makes up any work missed.
What absences can be excused?
Absences will be classified as “excused” or “unexcused”. Absences that are documented and verified for the following reasons will be classified as excused:
- Personal illness (with a doctor’s or parent note)
- Serious illness or death in the immediate family
- Medical or dental appointments (with a doctor’s note)
- Weather or road conditions making travel dangerous
- Extenuating circumstances approved by the Principal (5 day maximum per school year)
Absences for reasons other than those listed above will be considered unexcused.
What do I do if my child has to be absent due to family emergency, illness, etc.?
When sickness or other obligation necessitates an absence, a note signed by the parent/guardian explaining the reason for the absence is required the day the student returns to school. If a student fails to submit a note, the absence will be considered unexcused.
The student will be allowed three (3) days to submit a written note excusing an absence. Visit your campus website for instructions and contact information for your attendance/data clerk. It is very important to send a note because the absence will be unexcused if a parent/guardian fails to provide a note within the specified time. Unexcused absences are what triggers the warning letters regarding violation of truancy laws and can lead to filing of failure to attend school charges.
Upon return to school, a student absent for more than 5 consecutive days because of a personal illness must bring a statement from a doctor or health clinic verifying the illness or condition that caused the student’s extended absence from school. Should the student develop a questionable pattern of absences, the principal or attendance committee may require a statement from a doctor or health clinic verifying the illness or condition that caused the student’s absence from school. [See policy FEC(LOCAL).]
NOTE: If your student is absent due to illness, please include his/her symptoms in your note. This is particularly important during this time as we are tracking absences related to flu and flulike symptoms to report to the health departments. Please let us know if your child has a fever, sore throat, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. If your student will be absent more than one day, a call would be helpful.
Can my student make up their work if they are absent?
Yes, consult the student handbook regarding make up work guidelines. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain work from the teacher and to turn it in within the allotted time.
How many absences are acceptable?
A student is to be in attendance for a minimum of 90% of the school year. A high school student must be in attendance for at least 90% of the days that classes are offered in order to receive credit for the course. Schools must send a Warning Letter when a student has three (3) or more unexcused absences in a four week period. Schools can request Court Action when a student has ten (10) or more unexcused absences in a six-month period within the same school year. Court Action can only be requested on a parent or guardian after the warning letter has been sent.
Can absences be made up?
Absences can be made up for credit only. Attendance committees may hear petitions for class credit by students who, due to extenuating circumstances, are in attendance fewer than the number of days required for credit. Schools also provide alternative ways for students to make up or recover lost credits due to absences. Made up credits do not exempt students from prosecution.
How can unexcused absences affect a student who is 19 years old or older?
A 19 year old who voluntarily enrolls or attends school must attend school each school day for the entire time instruction is offered (TEC 25.085). A school district may revoke enrollment of an 19 year old that has more than five unexcused absences in a semester (TEC 25.087).
At what age can a student be charged with Failure to Attend School?
A student must be at least 12 years old to be charged with Failure to Attend School (TEC. Sec. 253094). If a child is enrolled in school (including Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten), but younger than 12 years, only the parent/guardian will be charged with Parent Contributing to Non-Attendance (TEC. Sec.25.093).
What happens to parents/guardians who are found guilty of Parent Contributing to Nonattendance?
If a parent/guardian is found guilty, they may be fined up to $100 plus court costs. The judge may place the parent under court supervision. Other consequences, such as, the parent being ordered to attend parenting classes, family counseling with the student, or to go to school with the student, may be assessed as well.
How is a parent to be notified about a student’s absences?
Every effort should be made to contact a parent. Multiple avenues are utilized. Calling devices are used at each campus, as well as report cards and progress reports. After three (3) unexcused absences each campus will send a notice on school letterhead, after ten (10) or more unexcused absences, the school may file a civil case against the student.
Can a student be withdrawn by the school without the parent/guardians approval?
Board Policy FEA allows withdrawal of a student for nonattendance. A student may be withdrawn if the student has been absent on ten (10) consecutive school days or more and repeated efforts by school officials to locate the student have been made but failed.