Washington law requires children from age 8 to 17 to attend a public school, private school, or district-approved home school program. Children who are 6- or 7 years old are not required to be enrolled in school. However, if parents enroll their 6- or 7-year-old, the student must attend full-time.
Unexcused absences may be an early warning sign for unaddressed problems and future academic failure. When youth fail to attend school, they are considered truant.
Education has the potential to affect our children for the rest of their lives. Working together, we can design a plan to keep your child in school. In Clark County, school districts, the Juvenile Court, and Education Service District 112 have joined efforts to assist students in improving their attendance through an array of truancy interventions, including Truancy Workshops, the Clark County Truancy Project, Community Truancy Boards and the Truancy Mentoring Program.
School Awaiting Students
The School Process
If a student has unexcused absences, this law requires that schools and school districts take the following actions:
One Unexcused Absence: The school must inform the parent when there is one unexcused absence. This is often done by a phone call home.
Three Unexcused Absences: After the third unexcused absence, the school is required to schedule a meeting with the parent/legal guardian and student to discuss the causes of the unexcused absences and find solutions to prevent further absences. This is a team effort.
Not Later than 7th Unexcused Absence in a Month: The district will enter into an agreement with the student and the parent establishing attendance requirements or file a petition under subsection (1) of RCW 28A.225.030.
After 7 Unexcused Absences (within a month) and not later than 15 Unexcused Absences (within a school year): The school district will file a petition in juvenile court to order the student to attend school. Schools must send the student a notice of the truancy court petition by certified mail with return receipt or by in-person delivery. The petition includes many important dates and deadlines that you and your child must not miss.
The Court Process
The first requirement of the court process for you and your child is to attend an educational workshop at the Juvenile Court (done virtually during COVID-19 restrictions).
The Juvenile Court is required to place a stay order (hold) on the truancy petition to allow for a referral to a community engagement board.
If your child continues to have unexcused absences, your school district representative will refer your child to the Clark County Truancy Project for further intervention.
If unexcused absences continue, the court will proceed with a truancy fact-finding court hearing. If the court determines that your child has continued to be truant, an order compelling school attendance will be entered.
If unexcused absences continue after the entry of the order compelling school attendance, the student and/or parent can be summoned back to court for a contempt hearing. If the student is found in contempt, the court may order consequences such as writing a report, obtaining a drug/alcohol evaluation or doing community service.
The student is represented by an attorney at the contempt court hearings. A parent held in contempt can be fined $25 for each day their child has an unexcused absence.