in Texas Schools
Good attendance is important for many reasons. Your child receives the maximum benefit of education by being in school every day, and numerous studies show a strong link between academic performance and consistent attendance. Because attendance is so critical for the quality of your child’s education, Texas has a compulsory attendance law.
State law requires schoolchildren to attend school each day that instruction is provided. The law applies to children ages 6–18. If you voluntarily enroll your child in prekindergarten or kindergarten before age 6, school attendance laws apply to your child, too.
There are some exceptions:
Children who are enrolled in a private or parochial school
Children who are home-schooled
Students who are 17 years old and enrolled in a GED (high school equivalency) program
Students who are 17 years old and have received a high school diploma or GED certificate
Most other students of Texas public schools must comply with the Compulsory Attendance Law.
Although perfect attendance is the goal, it’s not always possible. School districts are required to excuse a student’s absence for reasons listed in state law, such as to:
Observe a religious holy day
Attend a required court appearance
Serve as an election clerk
Attend a healthcare appointment
Visit college campuses
The Texas Education Code describes these reasons in greater detail and lists additional statutorily excused absences.
Your school has its own criteria for determining what else is considered an excused absence. Generally, an absence may qualify as excused in cases of:
Death of an immediate family member
Penalties for too many unexcused absences
Both the child and parent are responsible for unexcused absences. Yes, even if your child is 16 years old and skips class without you knowing, you are considered responsible!
After too many unexcused absences, the school must notify the parent. A compulsory attendance notification will be sent to the parent if a student has unexcused absences on 10 or more days or parts of days within a six-month period or three days or parts of days without an excuse during a four-week period. Notice it says “parts of days.” That means that leaving school early, or arriving after the first bell has rung, even if the child attended for some of the day, can count as an absence.
The compulsory attendance letter gives the parent notice that the student has accumulated too many unexcused absences (and should not have any future absences) and gives the parent a chance to make corrections to the child’s attendance record.
If the student continues to miss school, he or she may be subject to referral to a special truancy court. In addition, parents may be criminally charged or fined if their child has another unexcused absence.
90 Percent Rule
In addition to the Compulsory Attendance Law, there is the 90 Percent Rule, which states that students must attend class for 90 percent of the time it is offered to receive credit. If the student doesn’t meet this requirement, an attendance hearing committee may grant the student credit, depending on the circumstances.
The Student Handbook explains what your school’s guidelines are on absences, tardies, and making up missed schoolwork. Becoming familiar with the school’s policies will help you manage your child’s attendance and ensure that he or she avoids too many missed school days.