What is truancy?
Truancy is defined as the action of failing to attend school without a valid excuse.
At what ages is school attendance required?
In West Virginia, children who turn 6 before September 1 to 17 years of age must attend school. Beginning in the school year 2019-2020, compulsory school attendance will begin for children who turn 6 before July 1.
If the child is over 17 and still enrolled in school and has not graduated, dropped out, or gotten a GED, then he or she must attend school.
How many days of school can a student miss with an unexcused absence?
A student can miss a total of 10 days with an unexcused absence per school year.
What counts as an excused absence?
- Personal illness or injury
- Medical or dental appointment with a written excuse from the doctor or dentist
- Chronic medical conditions that impact attendance
- Disability that impacts attendance
- Disaster situations such as a flood or fire
- A death in the family
- School or county approved extra-curricular activities
- Obligation to appear in court that involves the student
- Military requirements for students enlisting in the military
- Personal or academic circumstances approved by the principal
- Other situations that be determined by the county school board
What counts as an unexcused absence?
Any absence that is not covered in the list above. For example, an absence will not be excused if the student misses a day of school because they chose to stay home and relax for the day.
*Please refer to county policy to determine if excessive tardies count as unexcused absences.
What happens when my child starts to miss school without an excused absence?
- After three unexcused absences, a warning letter will be sent from the attendance director to the parent or guardian of the student.
- After five unexcused absences, an in-person conference with the school principal, parent or guardian, and student will be required.
- After ten unexcused absences, the attendance director will make a complaint before a magistrate judge of the county against the parent or guardian of the student.
What will the warning letter say?
After three unexcused absences, the warning letter will state that attendance of the student is required and a conference with the principal will be required if the student misses five unexcused days.
What will be discussed during the conference?
After five unexcused absences, the parent, student, and principal will discuss and try to correct what is causing the unexcused absences during the in-person conference.
What does it mean if a complaint is filed against me?
If the attendance director files a complaint against you, the magistrate judge may require you to appear in court or may issue a warrant for your arrest.
Can more than one parent or guardian be charged in the complaint?
Yes. More than one parent or guardian may be charged in the complaint.
What penalties can I face if my child misses 10 unexcused days?
- After the first offense, the parent of a child under the age of 18 will be fined $50 - $100 and the cost of prosecution. The parent may also have to accompany the child to school. The sentence can be dropped if the child attends 60 days of school without an absence after the conviction.
- If a second offense occurs, the parent will be fined $50-$100. The parent may also have to attend school with the child throughout the entire day. The judge could also sentence the parent to five to twenty days in jail.
What counts as a second offense?
A second offense is any and each additional unexcused absence that occurs after the first 10 unexcused absences.
Is truancy a misdemeanor or a felony offense?
Truancy in West Virginia is considered a misdemeanor offense.
What can happen to my child if he or she misses 10 unexcused days?
Students may have their drivers’ license suspended for failure to attend school.
What happens to my child if he or she is 18 and misses 10 unexcused days?
If the student is 18 years of age or older, he or she may be punished in the same ways as the parent of a child under the age of 18. In addition to the $50-$100 fine, on the third offense, the student will be withdrawn from school for the remainder of the year if he or she fails to attend.
What are ways I can encourage my child to attend school regularly?
- Look for early signs of your child’s thoughts that school is not worthwhile.
- Monitor changes in your child’s friendships, teachers, or family members and other things that could contribute to a child’s dread of going to school.
- Make school the priority in the child’s life.
- Take an active interest in your child’s schoolwork.
- Ask your child to explain some of the things he or she has been learning in school.
- Regularly contact the school to make sure your child is attending.
- Ask the school to notify you when the child is absent.
- Check in regularly with your child’s teachers and the school administration.
- Encourage your child to take an active role in the school by participating in sports or joining clubs.
- Do not excuse your child from school unless there is a real reason to do so.
- Escort your child to school.
- Identify subjects your child may be struggling in and help your child with those subjects.
- Consider counseling or contacting the school’s guidance counselor for additional help.
What are ways to avoid truancy?
- Be sure to give the school your child’s doctor excuses.
- If your child has a chronic illness that affects attendance, please see the county board of education to request a medical waiver form to give to your child’s doctor to complete and submit on the child’s behalf.
- If your child has a 504 plan in place, make sure the plan adequately addresses the child’s needs.
- Try to schedule all appointments after school or during non-school hours.
- For students that are absent due to suspensions for behaviors that are a result of the student’s disability, parents should check to make sure their child has a behavioral support plan that provides appropriate support to the child.
- If no plan is in place, the parent should request an IEP meeting to discuss developing a behavioral support plan or changing the child’s current plan.