Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) understands that school attendance is a protective factor for students, promoting student engagement, inclusion, and overall well-being. Additionally, investments in teaching and learning are maximized when students attend school on a regular basis. Therefore, PAUSD is committed to efforts that align and include attendance notifications and communication to parents, use data to identify at risk patterns in absenteeism to develop appropriate intervention strategies, and help students build healthy habits around school attendance early in their time at PAUSD. Board Policies and Administrative Regulations reflect California law (Ed Code) and are updated periodically to reflect best practices. A collective focus on attendance that includes schools, parents, and the community, contributes to all students being more successful academically, socially, and emotionally.
School attendance is required by state law. The California Education Code section 48200 requires that every child 6 to 18 years old must attend school every day and on time, unless there is an acceptable reason (defined by Ed Code) for the absence. Acceptable reasons for excused absences include, but are not limited to, illness, medical appointments, and attendance at family funeral services. Attendance at religious retreats can not exceed four (4) hours per school semester. Absences due to activities such as babysitting, travel, accompanying parents on errands, and attending sporting events or concerts are unexcused per Ed Code. Parents/guardians are responsible for their child's school attendance and must notify the school when their child is not in school and include a reason.
Public schools are required to send parents notifications of truancy in writing; PAUSD send notifications when a student accumulates 3, 6 and 10 unexecused absences, or accumulates 30 minutes or more of missed instruction, or any combination thereof. This notification is meant to promote communication between the home and the school. Parents are always encouraged to contact the school site when questions of school attendance arise.
Ed Code states that a student is truant if that student:
- Is absent from school without an Ed Code-valid excuse three full days in one school year; or
- Is tardy or absent for more than a 30-minute period during the schoolday without an Ed Code-valid excuse on three occasions in one school year;
or any combination thereof. (Ed Code, 48260(a))
A "chronic absentee" is defined in Ed Code section 60901(c)(1) as "a pupil who is absent on 10 percent or more of the school days in the school year when the total number of days a pupil is absent is divided by the total number of days the pupil is enrolled and school was actually taught in the regular day schools of the district, exclusive of Saturdays and Sundays."
If an attendance problem arises and cannot be resolved by school staff, the school may refer the student and family to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB). The purpose of the SARB is to provide “intensive guidance and coordinated community services” to “meet the special needs of pupils with school attendance problems.” (Ed. Code, 48320, subd. (a)). While the intent of the SARB is to provide families with intentional support services, a SARB also has the power to refer recalcitrant students and their parents to court. Referrals to the court (District Attorney) are meant to help families understand and meet the requirements of compulsory education through.
Parents who have questions about school attendance or need support in this area are encouraged to contact their school site for assistance. Additionally, below are tips and strategies for parents to promote strong school attendance.