Definition of a Truant
The California Legislature defined a truant in very precise language. In summary, it states that a student missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three times during the school year must be classified as a truant and reported to the proper school authority. This classification and referral helps emphasize the importance of school attendance and is intended to help minimize interference with instruction. Effective January 1, 2013, the law was amended to authorize school administrators to excuse school absences due to the pupil’s circumstances, even if the excuse is not one of the valid excuses listed in the California Education Code (EC) or the uniform standards established by the governing board of the district. The EC section that defines a truant reads as follows:
EC Section 48260 (a) A pupil subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education who is absent from school without a valid excuse three full days in one school year or tardy or absent for more than a 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof, shall be classified as a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor or to the superintendent of the school district.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), it is the intent of the Legislature that school districts shall not change the method of attendance accounting provided for in existing law and shall not be required to employ period-by-period attendance accounting.
(c) For purposes of this article, a valid excuse includes, but is not limited to, the reasons for which a pupil shall be excused from school pursuant to Sections 48205 and 48225.5 and may include other reasons that are within the discretion of school administrators and, based on the facts of the pupil’s circumstances, are deemed to constitute a valid excuse.
Definition of a Chronic Truant
Effective January 1, 2011, EC Section 48263.6: Any pupil subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education who is absent from school without a valid excuse for ten percent or more of the school days in one school year, from the date of enrollment to the current date, is deemed a chronic truant, provided that the appropriate school district officer or employee has complied with EC sections 48260, 48260.5, 48261, 48262, 48263, and 48291.
First Notification Mandate
In addition to the reporting requirement, the law states that the school district must notify the parent or guardian of the truant by the most cost-effective method possible, and that the notification must include specific information related to the student’s unexcused absences. The EC Section regarding notification reads as follows:
EC Section 48260.5: Upon a pupil’s initial classification as a truant, the school district shall notify the pupil’s parent or guardian, by using the most cost-effective method possible, which may include electronic mail or a telephone call:
(a) That the pupil is a truant.
(b) That the parent or guardian is obligated to compel the attendance of the pupil at school.
(c) That parents or guardians who fail to meet this obligation may be guilty of an infraction and subject to prosecution pursuant to Article 6 (commencing with Section 48290) of Chapter 2 of Part 27.
(d) That alternative educational programs are available in the district.
(e) That the parent or guardian has the right to meet with appropriate school personnel to discuss solutions to the pupil’s truancy.
(f) That the pupil may be subject to prosecution under Section 48264.
(g) That the pupil may be subject to suspension, restriction, or delay of the pupil’s driving privilege pursuant to Section 13202.7 of the Vehicle Code.
(h) That it is recommended the parent or guardian accompany the pupil to school and attend classes with the pupil for one day.
Habitual Truant Mandate
The law further requires that after a student has been reported as a truant three or more times in one school year and after an appropriate school employee has made a conscientious effort to hold at least one meeting with the parent and the student, the student is deemed a habitual truant. The intent is to provide solutions for students who failed to respond to the normal avenues of school intervention, and the most cost-effective method possible should be used to notify the parent or guardian about the meeting at the school. The EC Section outlining habitual truancy reads as follows:
EC Section 48262: Any pupil is deemed an habitual truant who has been reported as a truant three or more times per school year, provided that no pupil shall be deemed an habitual truant unless an appropriate district officer or employee has made a conscientious effort to hold at least one conference with a parent or guardian of the pupil and the pupil himself, after the filing of either of the reports required by Section 48260 or Section 48261. For the purposes of this section, a conscientious effort means attempting to communicate with the parents of the pupil at least once using the most cost-effective method possible, which may include electronic mail or a telephone call.