With the school year underway, it’s important to remember the correlation between regular school attendance and academic success. Studies show students who attend school regularly achieve at higher levels than student who miss frequently.
Results also show that absenteeism often starts as early as kindergarten and becomes increasingly worse in later years. While absences result in a lost opportunity for educational learning, they also can result in lower achievement in reading and math, negative behavioral problems, social withdrawal, increased levels of anxiety, repeating of grades and, in severe cases, dropping out of school.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania School Code and Pennsylvania Department of Education define compulsory school law and guide the school district on developing policy and procedures to address truancy. School districts have an obligation to students, families and to Pennsylvania Department of Education to support regular attendance at school.
The PDE Compulsory Attendance law requires the following processes to be followed for all school age students from the time the child enters school until they’re 17 years old:
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▪ All student absences are counted as unexcused until your child’s school receives a written excuse.
▪ If a written excuse is not received at your child’s school within three days, the absence will be permanently unexcused.
▪ Parents can provide 10 written parental excuses each year. Any absences exceeding the ten parental notes will require a written excuse from a doctor or medical practitioner.
▪ After three unexcused days, parents/guardians will receive official written notification from the school district.
▪ If four days of unexcused absences, or the equivalent, occurs the school district must contact parents/guardians to schedule a school-family conference and School Improvement Attendance Plan.
▪ For all unexcused absence after the SAIP meeting, the district must file in the district magistrate court violations of Pennsylvania school code.
▪ Pennsylvania School Code defines “habitually truant” as six unexcused days or their equivalent. If six days of unexcused absences or the equivalent occurs, the district must notify the magisterial district judge on a weekly basis and notify Children and Youth Services if two or more violations have been filed within a three-year period. For more information about the attendance visit www.education.state.pa.us.
The above outline is a guide from PDE. To determine your child’s school district’s policy and procedures go the their websites, look at the student handbooks and/or contract the school.
Student engagement starts on day one of kindergarten. The joy of coming to school, seeing our friends and learning new things seems like a right of passage, but for some it is not that easy. Attendance can be a struggle for both students and families. If your student is struggling with coming to school or you have questions regarding the PDE requirements, do not hesitate to contact your child’s school counselor and/or building principal.
Cindy Sergeon, MA, is a CTC counselor/home-school visitor with the State College Area School District.