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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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Truancy causes more than just problems for schools in California

If you have a child who is currently enrolled in school, chances are you are aware of the fact that schools take truancy from class very seriously. In California, if a student misses more than 30 minutes of class, they are considered tardy. If the student misses class and does not produce a valid excuse from a parent, then the truancy becomes an unexcused absence. Three or more truancies in a school year can result in the intervention from school administrators and a meeting with the student's parents. The more unexcused absences and truancies that accumulate, the more likely a student will be suspended or even face intervention from the district attorney.

A lot of times, when you hear people talk about truancies, the focus of the conversation is often about how these absences affect the school. According to the Office of the Attorney General, absences cost school districts more than $1 billion in school funding every school year. Even more alarming than that is the fact that truancy is not just a problem in our high schools but our elementary schools as well. It's estimated that one in five elementary school students are truant each year.

But while much of the focus is often placed on the damage truancies cause to school funding, we'd like to point out that our current truancy laws may also be causing considerable damage to students' educations as well. That's because our education laws allow a student to be suspended from school if they have too many unexcused absences. This takes students out of the classroom for even more time, causing them to fall further behind their classmates and their education to suffer.

As our state's attorney general explains, allowing absence rates to remain where they are at is doing a disservice to students because it interferes with their right to an education under our state constitution. It puts many students further behind the curve, including students with special needs who already face plenty of other challenges in the classroom. Change is needed, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris says, and it needs to happen soon so that we can start helping students now.

Sources: The Office of the Attorney General, "In School, On Track 2014," Accessed April 2, 2015

The Office of the Attorney General, "Chapter 6. The Legal Framework of California's Truancy Laws," Accessed April 2, 2015

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