Washington State’s truancy law, known as the Becca Bill, requires the school/district and the juvenile court to take specific actions when youth are truant.
One-half of a student’s school day will be considered as Becca unexcused absence. Parents concerned about your student’s unexcused absences can insist that your child attends school, keep in contact with the school about your child’s attendance, attend scheduled conferences and follow the attendance agreement developed for your child. If you feel your child is “out of control” and you would like to enlist the help of the courts, feel free to contact the Cowlitz County Juvenile Court Services at 360.577.3100.
After one unexcused absence in a month, the school will attempt to contact the parent or guardian by phone.
After two unexcused absences, the school will attempt to contact the parent by mail. If the school is not contacted they will schedule a conference with the parent, student, and school staff to help resolve the issue of unexcused absences.
After five unexcused absences in a month, the school will complete the BECCA Petition, including documentation of any interventions used by the school to reduce or eliminate further unexcused absences. The petition will be forwarded to the District Attendance Officer to review and provide referrals as needed.
After seven unexcused absences in a month, or ten unexcused absences in an academic year, the Attendance Officer is required to file a petition with the Cowlitz County Juvenile Court. The Prosecuting Attorney will review the petition and either request a hearing, issue a warning, coordinate an at-risk petition, or issue a stay.
If the student continues to have unexcused absences, a juvenile court hearing is held to determine the facts. The parent and/or student sign a court document that commits the student to attend school with no further unexcused absences, the judge signs the order compelling student attendance.
If the parent and/or student disagree with the number of absences, another court date is set, credible witnesses are summoned and the case is continued.
If the student attends school, per court order, and acquires no additional unexcused absences, no further action is required.
If the student attends school, but acquires at least one unexcused absence, the school sends the student’s progress report to the attendance officer. The Attendance Officer notifies the Cowlitz County Juvenile Court and requests a Show Cause Hearing (Contempt) for the parent and/or student. The Prosecutor presents additional unexcused absences and requests the court to find the parent and/or student in contempt of court, sanctions are applied. If they are not found in contempt, no sanctions are applied.