Elementary truancy laws updated for spring 2016

Elementary truancy laws have been updated by the State of Texas, beginning in 2016, with the largest changes affecting absences and truancy prevention.

Prior to the change, elementary students were only marked “absent.” Beginning January 5, 2016 only the following absences will be marked “excused:”

  • Illness documented with a note from a doctor/parent within 48 hours,
  • Death in immediate family, or
  • School related event.

There are some additional reasons for an absence that would not be marked either way, including religious holidays and visiting a parent in the military. Unexcused absences will be assessed for truancy measures on a case-by-case basis with consideration for the educational value, length and frequency of trips and in the case of non-immediate family member deaths.

The state also mandates a process for truancy prevention, beginning when a student has three unexcused absences within four weeks.

Truancy is defined as failure to attend school on ten or more days within a six-month period in the same school year. Beginning January 5, 2016 the following steps will be taken as truancy prevention measures.

  • Three unexcused absences within four weeks:
    • An automatically generated letter is sent to parents, and
    • A school administrator initiates a Student Attendance Plan with parent.
  • Seven unexcused absences within six months:
    • The Student Attendance Plan is revisited with parent, and
    • Possible involvement of attendance officer.
  • 10 unexcused absences within six months:
    • An automatically generated letter is sent to parents,
    • The Student Attendance Plan is revisited with parent,
    • A home visit may be scheduled, and
    • Involvement of attendance officer and/or escalation of truancy case to court, with a possibility of fines between $100 and $500.

“Attending school is important to student success at any age,” said Kristina Snow, RRISD director of elementary education.

“We understand how unexpected incidences occur and we want to be flexible for parents,” Snow said. “Students who are absent will have the opportunity to make up school work. We encourage parents to work closely with their school to provide the appropriate communication and documentation needed for excused absences.”

For more information on student absences, refer to the absence and attendance section in the district’s Student-Parent Handbook (pages 16-20.)