Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) understands that school attendance is a protective factor for students, encouraging student engagement, inclusion, and overall well-being. Additionally, investments in teaching and learning are maximized when students attend school on a regular basis. Therefore, the school district is committed to efforts that align and increase 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 earlier on. Board Policies and Administrative Regulations have also been updated to reflect best practices. It is expected that a collective focus on attendance that includes schools, parents, and the community contributes for all students to be 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 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 shall not exceed four (4) hours per school semester. Absences due to activities such as babysitting, accompanying parents on errands, and attending sporting events or concerts are unexcused per the California Education Code. Parents/guardians are responsible for their child's school attendance and must notify the school if their child is not in school and why.
The district will send parents notifications of truancy in writing when a child accumulates 3, 6 and 10 unexecused absences or accumulates 30 minutes or more of missed instruction, or any combination thereof. This correspondence is meant to promote communication between the home and school. Parents are always encouraged to contact the school site when questions of school attendance arise.
Education Code 48260 provides that a student is truant if that student:
- Is absent from school without valid excuse three full days in one school year
- Is tardy or for more than any 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof. (Education Code, 48260, subd. (a) (emphasis added)
A "chronic absentee" has been defined in California Education CodeEC) 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.