3122 Procedure – Excused and Unexcused Absences

Excused Absences

The following are valid excuses for absences and tardiness. Assignments and/or activities not completed because of an excused absence or tardiness may be made up in the manner provided by the teacher.

  1. Participation in school-approved activity or instructional program. To be excused this absence must be authorized by a staff member and the affected teacher must be notified prior to the absence unless it is clearly impossible to do so.
  2. Absence due to: illness; health condition; medical appointment; family emergency; religious purposes; court, judicial proceeding or serving on a jury; post-secondary, technical school or apprenticeship program visitation, or scholarship interview; State recognized search and rescue activities consistent with RCW 28A.225.055; and directly related to the student’s homeless status.

The parent/guardian is expected to notify the school office on the morning of the absence by phone, e-mail or written note and to provide the excuse for the absence.  If an excuse is not provided within 48 hours after the student returns to school, the absence will be considered unexcused unless and until additional information is provided. In all cases, the school principal has the authority to determine if an absence meets the legal criteria for an excused absence.

Adult students (those over eighteen) and emancipated students (those over sixteen who have been emancipated by court action) will notify the school office of their absences with a note of explanation. Students fourteen years old or older who are absent from school due to testing or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease will notify the school of their absence with a note of explanation, which will be kept confidential. Students thirteen years and older may do the same for mental health, drug or alcohol treatment; and all students have that right for family planning and abortion.

A parent/guardian may request that a student be excused from attending school in observance of a religious holiday. In addition, a student, upon the request of his/her parent, may be excused for a portion of a school day to participate in religious instruction provided such is not conducted on school property. A student will be allowed one makeup day for each day of absence.

  1. Absence for parental-approved activities. This category of absence will be counted as excused for purposes agreed to by the principal and the parent/guardian. An absence may not be approved if it causes a serious adverse effect on the student’s educational progress. In participation-type classes (e.g., certain music and physical education classes) the student may not be able to achieve the objectives of the unit of instruction as a result of absence from class. In such a case, a parent or guardian-approved absence would have an adverse effect on the student’s educational progress which would ultimately be reflected in the grade for such a course. A student, upon the request of his/her parent/guardian, may be excused for a portion of a school day to participate in religious instruction provided such is not conducted on school property or otherwise involves the school to any degree.


  1. Absence resulting from disciplinary actions — or short-term suspension. As required by law, students who are removed from a class or classes as a disciplinary measure or students who have been placed on short-term suspension will have the right to make up assignments or exams missed during the time they were denied entry to the classroom if the effect of the missed assignments will be a substantial lowering of the course grade.


  1. Extended illness or health condition. If a student is confined to home or hospital for an extended period, the school will arrange for the accomplishment of assignments at the place of confinement whenever practical. If the student is unable to do his/her schoolwork, or if there are major requirements of a particular course which cannot be accomplished outside of class the student may be required to take an incomplete or withdraw from the class without penalty.


  1. Excused absence for chronic health condition. Students with a chronic health condition which interrupts regular attendance may qualify for placement in a limited attendance and participation program. The student and his/her parent will apply to the principal or counselor, and a limited program will be written following the advice and recommendations of the student’s medical advisor. The recommended limited program will be approved by the principal. Staff will be informed of the student’s needs, though the confidentiality of medical information will be respected at the parent’s request.


Required Conference for Elementary School Students

If an elementary school student has five or more excused absences in a single month during the current school year or ten or more excused absences in the current school year, the district will schedule a conference with the student and their parent(s) at a reasonably convenient time. The conference is intended to identify barriers to the student’s regular attendance and to identify supports and resources so the student may regularly attend school.

The conference must include at least one school district employee, preferably a nurse, counselor, social worker, teacher of community human service provider, and may occur on the same day as the scheduled parent-teacher conference, provided it takes place within thirty days of the absences. If the student has an Individualized Education Program or a Section 504 Plan, the team that created that program must reconvene. A conference is not required if prior notice of the excused absences was provided to the district or if a doctor’s note has been provided and a plan is in place to ensure the student will not fall behind in their coursework.


Unexcused Absences

An “unexcused absence” means that a student has failed to attend the majority of hours or periods in an average school day or has failed to comply with a more restrictive school district policy on absences.

Unexcused absences occur when:

  1. The parent, guardian or adult student submits an excuse that does not meet the definition of an excused absence as defined above; or
  2. The parent, guardian, or adult student fails to submit any type of excuse statement within 48 hours, whether by phone, e-mail or in writing, for an absence.

​Each unexcused absence within any month of the current school year will be followed by a letter or phone call to the parent informing them of the consequences of additional unexcused absences. The school will make reasonable efforts to provide this information in a language in which that parent is fluent. A student’s grade will not be affected if no graded activity is missed during such an absence.
After two unexcused absences within any month of the current school year, a conference will be held between the principal, student and parent to analyze the causes of the student’s absenteeism.  If a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference is scheduled to take place within thirty days of the second unexcused absence, the district may schedule the attendance conference on the same day.  The district will designate a staff member to apply the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students (WARNS) and, where appropriate, provide the student with best practice or research-based interventions consistent with WARNS. As appropriate, the district will also consider:

  • adjusting the student’s course assignments;
  • providing the student more individualized instruction;
  • providing appropriate vocational courses or work experience;
  • requiring the student to attend an alternative school or program;
  • assisting the parent or student to obtain supplementary services; or
  • referring the student to a community truancy board.

If the student’s parent/guardian does not attend the conference, the conference may be conducted with the student and school official.  However, the parent will be notified of the steps taken to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences.


In the case of a student who transfers from one district to another during the school year, the sending district will provide to the receiving district, together with a copy of the WARNS assessment and any interventions previously provided to the student, the most recent truancy information for that student. The information will include the online or written acknowledgment by the parent and student.


Not later than a student’s fifth unexcused absence in a month, the district will:

a. enter into an agreement with the student and parents/guardians that establishes school attendance requirements;

b. refer the student to a community truancy board; or

c. file a petition to juvenile court (see below).

Students six or seven years of age, who have been enrolled in the district, are required to attend school and their parents/guardians are responsible for ensuring that they attend. Parents/guardians who wish to withdraw their children before the age of eight, and against whom no truancy petition has been filed, may withdraw the students from school. When a six or seven-year old student has unexcused absences, the district will do the following:

a. Notify the parent or guardian in writing or by telephone after one unexcused absence in any month.

b. Request a conference with the parent or guardian and child to analyze the causes of the student’s absences after two unexcused absences in any month (a regularly scheduled teacher-parent conference held within thirty days may substitute).

c. Take steps to eliminate or reduce the student’s absences, including: adjusting the school program, school or course assignment; providing more individualized or remedial instruction; offering enrollment in alternative schools or programs; or assisting in obtaining supplementary services.

d. After seven unexcused absences in a month, or ten in a school year, the district will file a truancy petition.


Community Truancy Board
A “community truancy board” means a board established pursuant to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between a juvenile court and the school district and composed of members of the local community in which the student attends school.  The district will enter into an MOU with the juvenile court in Whatcom County to establish a community truancy board prior to the 2017-2018 school year.

The district will designate and identify to the juvenile court (and update as necessary) a staff member to coordinate district efforts to address excessive absenteeism and truancy, including outreach and conferences, coordinating the MOU, establishing protocols and procedures with the court, coordinating trainings, sharing evidence-based and culturally appropriate promising practices.  The district will also identify a person within each school to serve as a contact regarding excessive absenteeism and truancy and assisting in the recruitment of community truancy board members.

Not later than a student’s seventh unexcused absence within any month during the current school year, or a tenth unexcused absence during the current school year, if the district’s attempts to substantially reduce a student’s absences have not been successful and if the student is under the age of seventeen, the district will file a petition and supporting affidavit for a civil action in juvenile court.


Petition to juvenile court
The petition will contain the following:

  1. A statement that the student has unexcused absences in the current school year;
  2. An attestation that actions taken by the school district have not been successful in substantially reducing the student’s absences from school;
  3. A statement that court intervention and supervision are necessary to assist the school district to reduce the student’s absences from school;
  4. A statement that RCW 28A.225.010 has been violated by the parent, student or parent and student;
  1. The student’s name, date of birth, school, address, gender, race and ethnicity; and the names and addresses of the student’s parents/guardians, whether the student and parent are fluent in English, whether there is an existing individualized education program (IEP) and the student’s current academic status in school;
  2. A list of all interventions that have been attempted, a copy of any previous truancy assessment completed by the student’s current school district, the history of approved best practices intervention or research-based intervention(s) previously provided to the student by the district, and a copy of the most recent truancy information document signed by the parent and student.
  3. Facts that support the above allegations.

Petitions may be served by certified mail, return receipt requested, but if such service is unsuccessful, personal service is required.  At the district’s choice, it may be represented by a person who is not an attorney at hearings related to truancy petitions.

If the allegations in the petition are established by a preponderance of the evidence, the court shall grant the petition and enter an order assuming jurisdiction to intervene for a period of time determined by the court, after considering the facts alleged in the petition and the circumstances of the student, to most likely cause the student to return to and remain in school while the student is subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

If the court assumes jurisdiction, the school district will periodically report to the court any additional unexcused absences by the student, actions taken by the school district, and an update on the student’s academic status in school at a schedule specified by the court.  The first report must be received no later than three (3) months from the date that the court assumes jurisdiction.

All sanctions imposed for failure to comply with the attendance policies and procedures will be implemented in conformance with state and district regulations regarding discipline or corrective action. (See WSSDA policy 3241, Classroom Management, Discipline and Corrective Action.)

Adopted: June 1999; June 2001; June 2011; December 2011; October 2012; December 2012; October 8, 2014; 09/22/16
Revised: 04/17/17