Truancy is defined by the district’s attendance policy as “any instance where a student has more than five days of unexcused absences” which do not meet the school board’s established criteria for “excused” absences. Examples of an excused absence include personal illness, death or illness of an immediate family member and religious holidays.
Students ages 5 through 12 who miss five or more days of school are considered to be under the legal definition of “educational deprivation” while students 13 to 15 are defined as “truant.” Both are classified under the same rules.
In educational deprivation cases, the court can cite parents for the student not attending school, but in truancy cases the student is held solely responsible.
There were 7,313 students who missed five or more unexcused days of school last school year, said Associate Superintendent Brian Otott.
He said students 10 or older and parents must sign a form stating they have read the attendance policy.
“Students can’t learn if they are not in school,” Otott said.
If a student reaches 15 or more unexcused absences the district’s social worker files a complaint with the juvenile court, if it is necessary. There were 842 students who missed 15 or more unexcused days of school last year, officials said.
Juvenile Court Judge Sandra Miller said she saw 33 educational deprivation cases and 36 truancy cases last year. When students come to her court she said she tries to find out why the children are missing so much school.
“We have a pretty frank discussion in court,” Miller said.
She said she wants to find a way to get the student back in school, and if she knows why they are not going they can usually find a solution.
Miller said the students are required to follow up with her and most told her things got better once they returned to school.
She has the power to give the students a fine up to $200 and can put them on probation. Normally she does not exercise those rights, but asks them to sign a contract for them saying it will not happen again, Miller said.