Regular school attendance is essential for a student to make the most of his or her education—to benefit from teacher-led and school activities, to build each day’s learning on the previous day’s, and to grow as an individual. Absences from class may result in serious disruption of a student’s mastery of the instructional materials; therefore, the student and parent should make every effort to avoid unnecessary absences. Two state laws—one regarding compulsory attendance, the other with attendance for course credit—are of special interest to students and parents. They are discussed below.
State law requires that a student between the ages of six and 19 attend school, as well as any applicable accelerated instruction program, extended year program, or tutorial session, unless the student is otherwise excused from attendance or legally exempt.
A student who voluntarily attends or enrolls after his or her 19th birthday is required to attend each school day until the end of the school year and is subject to compulsory attendance laws, if the student is under 21 years old. In addition, if a student 19 or older has more than five unexcused absences in a semester the district may revoke the student’s enrollment. The student’s presence on school property thereafter would be unauthorized and may be considered trespassing. [See Board Policy FEA.]
A student in grades 5 and 8 will be required to attend any assigned accelerated instruction program, which may occur before or after school or during the summer, if the student does not meet the passing standards on the state assessment for his or her grade level and applicable subject area.
Exemptions for Compulsory Attendance
State law allows exemptions to the compulsory attendance requirements for several types of absences if the student makes up all work. These include the following activities and events:
* Religious holy days;
* Required court appearances;
* Activities related to obtaining United States citizenship;
* Service as an election clerk; and
* Documented health-care appointments, including absences for recognized services for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
* Pursuing enlistment in a branch of the United States Armed Services or National Guard.
* Is absent to visit with a parent, step-parent, or legal guardian who is an active duty member of the uniformed services and has been called to duty for, is on leave from, or is immediately returned from continuous deployment.
In addition, a junior or senior student’s absence of up to two days related to visiting a college or university will be considered an exemption, provided the student receives approval from the campus principal, with completion of the proper form prior to the college visit (below), follows the campus procedures to verify such a visit, and makes up any work missed.
Parent’s Note after an Absence
When a student must be absent from school, the student—upon returning to school—must bring a note, signed by the parent that describes the reason for the absence. A note signed by the student, even with the parent’s permission, will not be accepted unless the student is 19 or older. Notes must be received within three days of the student’s return to school. Only five notes a year will be excused. Any child may be excused from school for absences resulting from personal sickness, sickness or death in the family, quarantine, and weather or road conditions.
Doctor’s Note after an Absence for Illness
Upon return to school, a student absent for more than three consecutive days because of a personal illness must bring a statement from a doctor or health clinic verifying the illness or condition that caused the student’s extended absence from school. [See Board Policy FEC(LOCAL).]
Should the student develop a questionable pattern of absences, the principal or Attendance Committee may require a statement from a doctor or health clinic verifying the illness or condition that caused the student’s absence from school. [See Board Policy FEC(LOCAL).]
The Attendance Committee may, if the student has established a questionable pattern of absences, also require a physician’s or clinic’s statement of illness after a single day’s absence as a condition of classifying the absence as one for which there are extenuating circumstances.
Failure to Comply with Compulsory Attendance
School employees must investigate and report violations of the state compulsory attendance law. A student absent without permission from school; from any class; from required special programs, such as additional special instruction, (termed “accelerated instruction” by the state) assigned by a grade placement committee and basic skills for ninth graders; or from required tutorials will be considered in violation of the compulsory attendance law and subject to disciplinary action.
A court of law may also impose penalties against both the student and his or her parents if a school-aged student is deliberately not attending school. A complaint against the parent may be filed in court if the student:
• Is absent from school on ten or more days or parts of days within a six-month period in the same school year, or
• Is absent on three or more days or parts of days within a four-week period. If the student is over age 18, the student’s parents shall not be subject to penalties as a result of their child’s violation of state compulsory attendance law. [See Board Policy FEA(LEGAL).]
Attendance for Credit
To receive credit in a class, a student must attend at least 90 percent of the days the class is offered. A student who attends at least 75 percent but fewer than 90 percent of the days the class is offered may receive credit for the class if he or she completes a plan, approved by the campus principal, that allows the student to fulfill the instructional requirements for the class. If a student is involved in a criminal or juvenile court proceeding, the approval of the judge presiding over the case will also be required before the student receives credit for the class.
If a student attends less than 75 percent of the days a class is offered or has not completed a plan approved by the campus principal, then the student will be referred to the attendance review committee to determine whether there are extenuating circumstances for the absences and how the student can regain credit, if appropriate. [See Board Policies at FEC.]
Attendance Committee Guidelines
In determining whether there were extenuating circumstances for the absences, the Attendance Committee will use the following guidelines:
• All absences will be considered in determining whether a student has attended the required percentage of days. If makeup work is completed, absences for the reasons listed above at Exemptions to Compulsory Attendance will be considered days of attendance for this purpose.
• A transfer or migrant student begins to accumulate absences only after he or she has enrolled in the district. For a student transferring into the district after school begins, including a migrant student, only those absences after enrollment will be considered.
• In reaching a decision about a student’s absences, the committee will attempt to ensure that it is in the best interest of the student.
• The committee will consider the acceptability and authenticity of documented reasons for the student’s absences.
• The committee will consider whether the absences were for reasons over which the student or the student’s parent could exercise any control.
• The committee will consider the extent to which the student has completed all assignments, mastered the essential knowledge and skills, and maintained passing grades in the course or subject.
• The student or parent will be given an opportunity to present any information to the committee about the absences and to talk about ways to earn or regain credit.
The student or parent may appeal the committee’s decision to the board of trustees by filing a written request with the superintendent in accordance with Board Policy FNG(LOCAL).
The actual number of days a student must be in attendance in order to receive credit will depend on whether the class is for a full semester or full year. The 2018-2019 instructional calendar has 167 school days; 90% is 150 days. Therefore, a student must attend 150 days to receive credit. If a student does not attend 150 days, an attendance hearing will be held. At that time, a determination will be made on the most appropriate action for student completion of instruction time. Note: The state of Texas does not consider absences as “excused” or “unexcused” as a determination for promotion.
After three days of absences, a letter will be sent to the parent as a reminder of the compulsory attendance law. If, at any time during the school year, a student’s absences exceed 10% of the current requirement, the district may file a Contributing to Truancy complaint with the Justice of the Peace.
Driver License Attendance Verification
For a student between the ages of 16 and 18 to obtain a driver license, the Texas Department of Public Safety must be provided written parental consent to access the student’s records for purposes of verifying 90 percent attendance for credit for the semester. It is the Students’ responsibility to obtain a verification letter either from the attendance office or via the WHS app. Students must sign the letter in the presence of the attendance officer. VOE's require a 24-hour notice to Attendance clerks.