Excused and Unexcused Absences
Students are expected to attend all assigned classes each day. School staff will keep a record of absence and tardiness, including a call log and/or a record of excuse statements submitted by a parent/guardian or, in certain cases, students, to document a student’s excused absences.
The following are valid excuses for absences and tardiness. Assignments and/or activities not completed because of an excused absence or tardiness may be made up in the manner provided by the teacher.
Absence due to:
- Physical health or mental health symptoms, illness, health condition or medical appointment for the student or person for whom the student is legally responsible. Examples of symptoms, illness, health conditions, or medical appointments include, but are not limited to, medical, counseling, mental health wellness, dental, optometry, pregnancy, and behavioral health treatment (which can include in-patient or out-patient treatment for chemical dependency or mental health);
- 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;
- Absences due to the student's lack of necessary instructional tools, including internet access or connectivity.
In the event of emergency school facility closure due to COVID-19, other communicable disease outbreak, natural disaster, or other event when districts are required to provide synchronous and asynchronous instruction, absences due to the following reasons are excused:
- Absences related to the student's illness, health condition, or medical appointments due to COVID-19 or other communicable disease;
- Absences related to caring for a family member who has an illness, health condition, or medical appointment due to COVID-19, other communicable disease, or other emergency health condition related to school facility closures;
- Absences related to the student's family obligations during regularly scheduled school hours that are temporarily necessary because of school facility closures, until other arrangements can be made; and
- Absences due to the student's parent's work schedule or other obligations during regularly scheduled school hours, until other arrangements can be made.
A school principal or designee has the authority to determine if an absence meets the above criteria for an excused absence.
- Parental notification. When possible, the parent/guardian is expected to notify the school office on the morning of the absence by phone, e-mail, or written note, and to provide the excuse for the absence. If no excuse is provided with the notification, or no notification is provided, the parent/guardian will submit an excuse via phone, e-mail or written note upon the student’s return to school. Adult students (those over eighteen) and emancipated students (those over sixteen who have been emancipated by court action) will notify the school office of their absences with a note of explanation. Students fourteen years old or older who are absent from school due to testing or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease will notify the school of their absence with a note of explanation, which will be kept confidential. Students thirteen years and older may do the same for mental health, drug or alcohol treatment; and all students have that right for family planning and abortion.
A parent/guardian may request that a student be excused from attending school in observance of a religious holiday. In addition, a student, upon the request of his/her parent, may be excused for a portion of a school day to participate in religious instruction provided such is not conducted on school property. A student will be allowed one makeup day for each day of absence.
- Absence for parent/guardian approved activities. This category of absence will be counted as excused for purposes agreed to by the principal and the parent/guardian. An absence may not be approved if it causes a serious adverse effect on the student’s educational progress. The student may not be able to achieve the objectives of the unit of instruction as a result of absence from class. In such a case, a parent or guardian-approved absence would have an adverse effect on the student’s educational progress, including the grade for the course. A student, upon the request of his/her parent/guardian, may be excused for a portion of a school day to participate in religious instruction provided such is not conducted on school property or otherwise involves the school to any degree.
- Absence resulting from disciplinary actions — or short-term suspension. As required by law, students who are removed from a class or classes as a disciplinary measure or students who have been placed on short-term or long-term suspension will have the right to make up assignments or exams missed during the time they were denied entry to the classroom if the effect of the missed assignments will be a substantial lowering of the course grade.
- Extended illness or health condition. If a student is confined to home or hospital for an extended period, the school will arrange for the accomplishment of assignments at the place of confinement whenever practical. If the student is unable to do his/her schoolwork, or if there are major requirements of a particular course which cannot be accomplished outside of class the student may be required to take an incomplete or withdraw from the class without penalty.
- Excused absence for chronic health condition. Students with a chronic health condition that interrupts regular attendance may qualify for placement in a limited attendance and participation program. The student and his/her parent will apply to the principal or counselor, and a limited program will be written following the advice and recommendations of the student's medical advisor. The recommended limited program will be approved by the principal. Staff will be informed of the student's needs, though the confidentiality of medical information will be respected at the parent's request.
Required conference for elementary school students
If an elementary school student has five or more excused absences during the current school year the District will schedule a conference with the student and his or her parents/guardians at a reasonably convenient time. The conference is intended to identify barriers to the student’s regular attendance and to identify supports and resources so the student may regularly attend school.
The conference must include at least one District employee, counselor, social worker, teacher or community human service provider, and may occur on the same day as the scheduled parent-teacher conference, provided it takes place within thirty days of the absences. If the student has an Individualized Education Program or a Section 504 Plan, the team that created that program must reconvene. A conference is not required if prior notice of the excused absences was provided to the District, or if a doctor’s note has been provided and a plan is in place to ensure the student will not fall behind in their coursework.
Tiered response system for student who are absent from remote learning
Students who are marked absent from remote learning will receive interventions and services consistent with the tiered response system for student absences implemented by the District pursuant to WAC 392-401A-045. Under the tiered response system, the District will:
- Monitor daily attendance data for all students who are absent from remote learning, whether excused or unexcused;
- Make multiple attempts to contact the families regarding student absences using multiple modalities and in the parent's home language;
- Provide daily notification of absences to parents;
- Provide outreach from the student’s school to determine student needs, such as basic needs, connectivity and hardware, connection with health and social services as necessary;
- Provide differentiated supports to students that address the barriers to attendance and participation, including universal supports for all students and tiered interventions for students at-risk of and experiencing chronic absence; and
- When feasible and appropriate, transition students to full-time in-person learning or other program to accommodate the student's needs.
An "unexcused absence" means that a student has failed to attend the majority of hours or periods in an average school day, has failed to comply with a more restrictive school district policy on absences, or has failed to comply with alternative learning experience program attendance requirements.
Unexcused absences occur when:
- The parent, guardian, or adult student submits an excuse that does not meet the definition of an excused absence as defined above; or
- The parent, guardian, or adult student fails to submit any type of excuse statement, whether by phone, e-mail or in writing, District for an absence.
Each unexcused absence within any month of the current school year will be followed by a letter or phone call to the parent/guardian informing him or her of the consequences of additional unexcused absences. The school will make reasonable efforts to provide this information in a language in which that parent/guardian is fluent. A student's grade will not be affected if no graded activity is missed during such an absence.
After three unexcused absences the current school year, the school will hold a conference with the principal or District designee, student, and parent/guardian to analyze the causes of the student’s absenteeism. If a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference is scheduled to take place within thirty days of the third unexcused absence, the District may schedule the attendance conference on the same day. If the parent/guardian does not attend the scheduled conference, the school may hold the conference with the student and principal. However, the school will notify the parent/guardian of the steps to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences.
At some point after the second and before the seventh unexcused absence, the District will take data-informed steps to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences. In middle school and high school, these steps will include an assessment by the District designated employee.
For any student with an existing Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan, these steps will include convening the student’s IEP team or Section 504 team, including a behavior specialist or mental health specialist where appropriate, to consider the reasons for the student’s absences. If necessary, and if the student’s parent/guardian gives consent, the District will conduct a functional behavior assessment and will complete a detailed behavior plan to explore the function of the absence behavior.
For any student who does not have an IEP or Section 504 Plan, but who is reasonably believed to have a mental or physical disability or impairment, these steps will include informing the student’s parent/guardian of the right to obtain an appropriate District evaluation at no cost to the parent to determine whether the student has a disability or impairment and needs accommodations, special education services, or related services. This includes students with suspected emotional or behavioral disabilities. If the District school obtains consent to conduct an evaluation, time should be allowed for the evaluation to be completed, and if the student is found to be eligible for accommodations, special education services, or related services, a plan will be developed to address the student’s needs.
The District will designate a staff member to apply the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students (WARNS) and, where appropriate, provide the student with best practice or research-based interventions consistent with WARNS. As appropriate, the District will also consider:
- adjusting the student’s course assignments;
- providing the student more individualized instruction;
- providing appropriate vocational courses or work experience;
- requiring the student to attend an alternative school or program;
- assisting the parent/guardian or student to obtain supplementary services; or
- referring the student to a community engagement board.
In the case of a student who transfers from one district to another during the school year, the sending District will provide to the receiving district, together with a copy of the WARNS assessment and any interventions previously provided to the student, the most recent truancy information for that student. The information will include the online or written acknowledgment by the parent and student. The sending district will use the standard choice transfer form for releasing a student to a nonresident school district for the purposes of accessing an alternative learning experience program.
Not later than a student’s seventh unexcused absence in a month, the District will:
- enter into an agreement with the student and parents/guardians that establishes school attendance requirements;
- refer the student to a community engagement board; or
- file a petition to juvenile court (see below).
Community Engagement Board
A “community engagement board” is a regularly scheduled meeting of school and community members, who meet with chronically absent students and their parents or guardians, to discuss the nature of the student’s absenteeism and to develop mutually acceptable solutions. The board meeting culminates in developing a written attendance plan, signed by all parties, which forms a documented intervention that is designed to decrease the need for more consequential action, i.e. referral to the juvenile court system.
The District will designate and identify to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction a staff member to coordinate District efforts to address excessive absenteeism and truancy, including outreach and conferences, establishing protocols and procedures with the court, coordinating trainings, sharing evidence-based and culturally appropriate practices. Each school’s administration will identify a person within that school to serve as a contact with the District’s designated person.
Each school will establish an attendance team, comprised of at least one administrator and the attendance secretary, to meet weekly and review attendance data. A member of this team will assist in the recruitment of community engagement board members.
After the student’s seventh unexcused absence within the current school year and not later than the fifteenth unexcused absence during the current school year, if the District attempts to substantially reduce a student’s absences have not been successful and if the student is under the age of seventeen, the District will file a petition and supporting affidavit for a civil action in juvenile court.
Petition to Juvenile Court
The petition will contain the following:
- A statement that the student has unexcused absences in the current school year. (District Note: While petitions must be filed if the student has seven or more unexcused absences within any month, or ten or more unexcused absences in the current school year, a petition may be filed earlier. Unexcused absences accumulated in another school or school will be counted when preparing the petition);
- An attestation that actions taken by the school district have not been successful in substantially reducing the student’s absences from school;
- A statement that court intervention and supervision are necessary to assist the school district to reduce the student’s absences from school;
- A statement that RCW 28A.225.010 has been violated by the parent/guardian, student or parent/guardian and student;
- The student’s name, date of birth, school, address, gender, race and ethnicity; and the names and addresses of the student’s parents/guardians, whether the student and parent/guardian are fluent in English, whether there is an existing individualized education program (IEP) and the student’s current academic status in school;
- A list of all interventions that have been attempted, a copy of any previous truancy assessment completed by the student’s current school district, the history of approved best practices intervention or research-based intervention(s) previously provided to the student by the district, and a copy of the most recent truancy information document provided to the parent/guardian.
- Facts that support the above allegations.
Petitions may be served by mail, or as an email attachment; but if such service is unsuccessful, the District designee will work with the recipient to determine the most-timely conveyance of the document. In cases where recipients will be ordered to appear in court, they will acknowledge in writing that they have received the petition documents.
The District’s designee will participate in hearings related to truancy petitions.
If the allegations in the petition are established by a preponderance of the evidence, the court shall grant the petition and enter an order assuming jurisdiction to intervene for a period of time determined by the court, after considering the facts alleged in the petition and the circumstances of the student, to most likely cause the student to return to and remain in school while the student is subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
If the court assumes jurisdiction, the school district will periodically report to the court any additional unexcused absences by the student, actions taken by the school district, and an update on the student’s academic status in school at a schedule specified by the court. The first report must be received no later than three (3) months from the date that the court assumes jurisdiction.
All sanctions imposed for failure to comply with the attendance policies and procedures will be implemented in conformance with state and District regulations regarding discipline or corrective action. (See WSSDA policy 3241, Student Discipline.)
Initial Adopted: April 11, 2016
Amended: October 23, 2017
Amended: July 22, 2019
Amended: November 28, 2022