Attendance Law FAQs

The Department, along with many partners, is committed to increasing student attendance, engagement and academic achievement. The Department’s collective effort, Future Forward Ohio, encompasses the state’s strategic priorities for helping students recover from the impact of the pandemic. Attendance is a critical concern: students need to be present to engage with learning as student attendance directly impacts student achievement and graduation. Chronic absenteeism, defined as students missing 10% or more of school hours due to absence of any reason, can lead to younger students struggling with learning to read by third grade, decreased achievement in middle school and difficulty graduating high school. This document provides schools and districts with examples of tiered interventions for attendance and a series of frequently asked questions on attendance laws.

Attendance Terms and Definitions

Excessively Absent Requirements for Schools and Districts

Habitual Truancy Requirements for Schools and Districts

School and District Policies and Practices


Attendance Terms and Definitions

What is the definition of excessively absent?
Ohio law defines excessively absent as “with a nonmedical excuse or without legitimate excuse from the public school the child is supposed to attend for thirty-eight or more hours in one school month, or sixty-five or more hours in a school year.” 
 

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What are medical and nonmedical excuses?

The definitions of medical and nonmedical excuses are within the discretion of schools and districts. Local board-adopted attendance policies should include definitions or examples of medical excuses, including a process and timeline for families to submit medical excuses. 

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What is the definition of habitual truancy?

Ohio law defines a habitually truant student as “any child of compulsory school age who is absent without legitimate excuse for absence from the public school the child is supposed to attend for thirty or more consecutive hours, forty-two or more hours in one school month, or seventy-two or more hours in one school year.” 

When a student meets the definition of habitually truant, the school or district is required to assign the student to an absence intervention team to develop a plan with the family. Only when those interventions are unsuccessful does the school or district file a truancy complaint. 

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What is compulsory school age?

According to Ohio law, a child between six and eighteen years of age is "of compulsory school age.” A child under six years of age who has been enrolled in kindergarten also shall be considered "of compulsory school age" unless at any time the child's parent or guardian, at the parent's or guardian's discretion and in consultation with the child's teacher and principal, formally withdraws the child from kindergarten. 

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What is the difference between chronic absenteeism, excessive absences, and habitual truancy?

Below is a breakdown of how different types of absenteeism compare.

Absenteeism Type Consecutive
Hours
Hours per School Month Hours per School Year
Chronic Absenteeism NA NA 10% of total hours either excused or unexcused
Excessive Absences NA 38 excused or unexcused hours absent unless the absence is medically excused 65 excused or unexcused hours absent unless the absence is medically excused
Habitual Truancy 30 hours without a legitimate excuse for the consecutive absences 42 hours without legitimate excuses for absences 72 hours without legitimate excuses for absences

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Excessively Absent Requirements for Schools and Districts

What happens when a student becomes excessively absent from school?

In the event a child of compulsory school age is absent with a nonmedical excuse or without legitimate excuse for 38 or more hours in one school month or 65 or more hours in a school year, Ohio law requires the following to occur: 

  • The school or district will notify the student’s parents or guardians in writing within seven days of the triggering absence if the absences are for nonmedical reasons or without legitimate excuse; 

  • The student will follow the school or district’s policy for addressing excessive absences; and 

  • The school or district may refer the student and family to community resources, as appropriate. 

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How must the district notify the family when a student becomes excessively absent?

A school or district must notify the student’s family in writing within seven days of the triggering absence. A school or district can consider different modes of communication when notifying the family. This may include an email or friendly letter in the mail. Families are often confused and frustrated when a letter about mostly excused absences includes language about truancy, court, and other punitive consequences.

While excessive absence may eventually lead to habitual truancy, communications about excessive absence should serve as a notification of the number of absent hours along with an invitation to support students and families. Schools and districts need to record the date the notice was given in their student information system.  

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What happens when a student becomes excessively absent from school but has medical excuses?

Medically excused absences do not count toward excessive absence triggers. Those hours will count toward a student’s chronic absence rate. 

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Do students with excessive absences need to have personalized absence intervention plans developed by their schools’ or districts’ absence intervention teams?

No, unless the absences surpass the threshold for habitual truancy. Students who have met the threshold for excessive absences but are not considered habitually truant do not need absence intervention plans developed by their school’s or district’s absence intervention teams.  

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Do students with excessive absences need submitted for a truancy complaint?

No. Schools and districts only submit truancy complaints for habitually truant students.  

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Why do excused absences count toward excessive absence triggers?

When a student is regularly absent, the student is missing instruction time and opportunities for interventions, supports, and social interactions. Excessive absences may serve as an early warning indicator that schools and districts can use to address absences before a student becomes habitually truant. A student may need support to get to school every day even though the student’s absences are excused. Ultimately, there may be a larger problem contributing to the absences that schools and districts will have to identify.  

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Do absences caused by suspensions count toward excessively absent triggers?

Yes. Suspensions count toward excessive absences because the definition of excessive absences does not distinguish between legitimate and not legitimate reasons for missing school. 

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Habitual Truancy Requirements for Schools and Districts

What happens when a student becomes habitually truant from school?

When a student is habitually truant, Ohio law requires the following to occur: 

  • Within seven school days of the triggering absence, the school or district will: 

  • Select members of the absence intervention team; and 

  • Make three meaningful attempts to secure the participation of the student’s parent, guardian custodian, guardian ad litem, or temporary custodian on the absence intervention team. 

  • Within 10 calendar days of the triggering absence, the student will be assigned to the selected absence intervention team; 

  • Within 14 school days after the assignment of the team, the school or district will develop the student’s absence intervention plan; 

  • Within seven calendar days after the plan is developed, the school or district shall make reasonable efforts to provide written notification to the student’s parent or guardian. 

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Are all districts required to have absence intervention teams?

No. According to Ohio law, schools and districts with chronic absenteeism rates of 5 percent or greater on the most recent Ohio School Report Cards must establish absence intervention teams for students who are habitually truant. If a local district is required to have an absence intervention team, all schools in that district are subject to the requirement. 

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Who is required to participate on the absence intervention team?

Membership of each absence intervention team should vary based on the needs of each individual student, but each team MUST include: 

  1. A representative from the school or district; 

  1. Another representative from the school or district who has a relationship with the child; and 

  1. The child’s parent (or parent’s designee) or the child’s guardian, custodian, guardian ad litem or temporary custodian. 

The school or district may invite a school psychologist, counselor, social worker, representative of a public or nonprofit agency, or representative from the court to participate on the team. 

The parent may appoint a designee, such as a relative or other trusted adult, if the parent is unable to participate. If, after three good faith attempts, the school or district is unable to ensure participation of the parent, the team will develop the student’s absence intervention plan without the parent. 

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What is the role of an absence intervention team?

The absence intervention team develops a student-centered absence intervention plan that will help identify specific barriers and solutions to attendance for every child who is habitually truant. Participation of the student and his or her parent or guardian in the plan helps to remove barriers to attendance and avoid filing criminal complaints against the student in juvenile court. 

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What if a school or district cannot engage the parent in the absence intervention team after three good faith attempts?

The school or district must make three good faith efforts to engage the student’s parent, guardian, custodian, guardian ad litem, or temporary custodian, as outlined in the school or district’s local policy. If the parent is unable to participate in the absence intervention team, the student’s parent may appoint a parent designee, such as a relative or other trusted adult.  

A parent does not have to participate in the absence intervention team in-person if they are unable to do so. Absence intervention teams can consider alternatives for including parents, such as conference calls or video conferencing. 

If, after three good faith attempts, the school or district is unable to ensure participation of the parent or the parent’s designee, the team can develop the student’s absence intervention plan without the parent. Schools and districts have seven days after the plan’s completion to send the plan to the student’s parents. 

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How long is the Absence Intervention Plan in place?

The student has 60 calendar days to participate and make satisfactory progress on the plan. The absence intervention team works with the student to avoid additional absences from school. If the student does not participate or make satisfactory progress on the plan, as determined by the absence intervention team, Ohio law states the attendance officer must file a complaint in juvenile court against the student on the 61st calendar day after the implementation of the absence intervention plan. 

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What determines if a student has made satisfactory progress on the absence intervention plan?

Setting a clear, individualized definition of “satisfactory progress” is a key component of the student’s plan. This allows the student and family to have a clear understanding of how to be successful. Before the conclusion of the plan on the 61st day, the team determines if the student made satisfactory progress based on the metrics in the plan. The team may consider attendance barriers. Satisfactory progress may not look the same for all students. Students who have made satisfactory progress do not meet the requirements for truancy.  

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What happens if a student reaches another habitually truant threshold while on the absence intervention plan?

If at any time during the implementation phase of the absence intervention plan the student is absent without legitimate excuse 30 or more consecutive hours or 42 or more hours in one school month, the school or district must have its attendance officer file a complaint against the student. This requirement does not apply if the absence intervention team has determined the student has made satisfactory progress on the absence intervention plan. 

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Does an absence intervention plan carry over from one school year to the next school year?

If a student becomes habitually truant within 21 school days of the last day of instruction in a school year, Ohio law allows the school or district to assign one school official to work with the child's parent, guardian, custodian, guardian ad litem, or temporary custodian to develop an absence intervention plan during the summer. If the school or district selects this method, the school or district and student must implement the plan no later than seven calendar days prior to the first day of instruction of the next school year. Alternatively, the school or district may reconvene the absence intervention process on the first day of instruction of the next school year. 

If the 61st calendar day after the implementation of the absence intervention plan falls on a day during the summer months, the absence intervention team or the attendance officer may extend the implementation of the plan and delay the filing of the complaint for an additional 30 days from the first day of instruction of the next school year. 

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Do absences caused by suspensions count toward habitual truant triggers?

No. Though suspensions are often coded as unexcused absences, they do not count toward habitual truancy triggers because suspensions represent a legitimate excuse to be out of school.  

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School and District Policies and Practices

What can schools and districts do to improve attendance?

Ensure each school has a tiered approach to addressing reasons for chronic absence. Attendance is everyone’s responsibility, and the entire school community has a role to play. Ohio’s Attendance Guide offers a variety of tools and questions for inquiry that school and district teams can use to help analyze their processes and practices. 

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Which attendance data do schools and districts report?

All Ohio public school types report: 

  1. The total number of hours each enrolled student is in attendance.

  1. The total number of hours each enrolled student is absent for excused reasons.

  1. The total number of hours each enrolled student is absent for unexcused reasons.

In addition, Ohio law requires schools and districts to report: 

  1. When the school or district notified a parent or guardian that a student has excessive absences. 

  1. When a child has been absent without legitimate excuse for 30 or more consecutive hours, 42 or more hours in one school month, or 72 or more hours in one school year. 

  1. When a child of compulsory school age who has been adjudicated an unruly child for being a habitual truant violates the court order regarding that adjudication. 

  1. When an absence intervention plan has been implemented for a child under Ohio law. 

While nonpublic schools may report attendance data to the Department in other ways, they do not report this in EMIS. 

While schools and districts do not report specific reasons students are absent, they may track that information at the local level to help with root cause analysis. 

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What is the difference between a district policy to address excessive absences and a student absence intervention plan for habitual truancy?

Ohio Revised Code 3321.191 (B)(1) references these different policies. Schools and districts must have an approach to addressing attendance and excessive absenteeism outlined in their truancy and attendance policies. School or district policy outlines the interventions, supports and processes for ensuring every student gets to school every day. When a student is excessively absent, the school or district must notify the student’s parent or guardian in writing and follow its truancy and attendance policy to assist that student and his or her family in getting to school regularly. 

A student absence intervention plan is a student-centered, individualized plan developed to address barriers to attendance when a student becomes habitually truant. A student absence intervention plan is only required for students who are habitually truant. The school or district absence team develops the student absence intervention plan collaboratively with the student and his or her family or guardian. 

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How should schools and districts handle pre-planned multi-day absences?

Schools and districts can create policies for pre-planned and multi-day absences. These can range from religious holidays, family vacations, or other pre-planned prolonged periods of missed instructional time. Schools and districts should communicate attendance expectations with families throughout the school year using a variety of communication methods.  

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When students are tardy to school, is that time counted toward chronic absenteeism?

Yes. Students can miss instructional time at any time of day, whether it is excused or unexcused. Being one hour late to school, leaving school two hours early, or leaving and returning midday for an appointment are all examples of hours away from instruction. These missed hours contribute to chronic absenteeism, and if they are unexcused, will also count toward habitual truancy. 

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Are absences due to leave or deployment of military family members excusable?
Yes, according to OAC 3301-69-02 (B)(2)(k), absences of students with military family members may be excused when military family members’ deployment, leave or other activities interferes with the student’s attendance.  

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Are absences due to student homelessness excusable?
Yes. Schools and districts should define excused absences in their policies for students experiencing homelessness when missed instructional time is directly related to the students’ homelessness. Here are additional resources for homeless youth

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Are absences for pre-enlistment military responsibilities excusable?
According to OAC 3301-69-02 (B)(2)(h), absence from instructional time for pre-enlistment reporting to military enlistment processing station is an excusable occurrence. Excusing authorities may require written confirmation of pre-enlistment reporting of absent students. Schools and districts should work with recruiters to ensure that most pre-enlistment activities take place outside of instructional time.  

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In OAC 3301-69-02 (A)(3), the term “regular attendance” is used. What does regular attendance mean?
In OAC 3301-69-02 (A)(3), schools and districts need to define regular attendance in their local policies. Consider both good and improved attendance when creating these definitions since a student could be achieving regular attendance after the school helps remove barriers to a student attending school. 

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Are students who cannot attend school due to chronic or terminal illness considered excessively absent or habitually truant?

No. A student cannot be considered excessively absent or habitually truant for medically related absences. Schools and districts can work with families to monitor the student’s absences that are a result of the identified medical condition. Students would not be referred to the absence intervention team to develop and complete a plan for absences due to documented illness or absences related to the illness. Further, a student would not be referred to court for medical-related absences. Schools and districts have discretion through their local policies to tailor their approaches to attendance, absences, and truancy to the unique needs of their student populations. 

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Is an appointment concerning mental health a medically excused absence?

According to OAC 3301-69-02 (B)(2)(e), students missing instructional time for mental or behavioral health appointments or treatment from medical providers is an excusable absence that schools and districts should add to their attendance policies. Schools and districts may require the written statement from a medical or mental health professional.  

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Can districts suspend or expel students for truancy?

No, Ohio law does not allow schools or districts to suspend or expel students for truancy. Schools and districts can work proactively work with families and community organizations to address barriers that prevent students from attending school. 

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How should schools and districts log attendance for students enrolled in College Credit Plus? 

When students attend part or all of their day at an approved location outside of their assigned school building through the College Credit Plus Program, both the school and the college/university need to collaborate and communicate about the student's daily attendance. This is necessary for attendance to be accurate and for student safety. For example, if a student attends three hours in the morning at their local school and three hours in the afternoon at the college/university, the school will log three hours for their morning in the building, and a designated person at the college/university confirms the student’s attendance for the afternoon with the school.  

Specific policy and practice should be developed at the local level. It is helpful for school and district staff to form good relationships with the college staff who coordinate the College Credit Plus program.

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Do local policies have to address zero tolerance?

Yes. Ohio law requires schools and districts to have zero tolerance policies for violent, disruptive or inappropriate behavior by their students. However, schools and districts must remove “excessive absences” from their zero tolerance policies. Schools and districts also are no longer allowed to suspend or expel students for being absent from school without legitimate excuse. 

 
 

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Last Modified: 7/11/2024 3:07:37 PM