Ohio's Attendance Laws 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.

General Questions

Commonly Used Definitions

Tracking and Reporting Attendance

Excessively Absent

Habitually Truant

District Policies

FERPA


General Questions

    What is the state doing to support attendance?

    The Department partners with several organizations to support schools and districts in decreasing chronic absenteeism. Their work includes helping schools and districts implement attendance campaigns, identify root causes in attendance data, provide professional development and resources, utilize attendance data and provide tiered supports and connect with students who are struggling with chronic absenteeism. They are also assisting the Department with building regional capacity using educational service centers and state support teams. These partners include:

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    What can educators do?

    Using Ohio’s Whole Child Framework, schools and districts can directly impact their students’ attendance through tiered prevention and attendance supports. The framework places the whole child at the center, where schools, families and community partners work together to meet students’ basic needs, and create safe, engaging, and supportive learning environments. A comprehensive whole child approach leads to better outcomes for students, including higher academic achievement, better attendance and a positive school experience.

    The following foundational supports help educators achieve these outcomes:

    • Review district attendance policies annually to ensure they align with policies and expectations
    • Clearly communicate attendance expectations, policies and procedures to the entire school community
    • Have consistent attendance procedures throughout the district
    • Engage in partnerships with community members, local businesses and local juvenile courts to provide services and supports to families
    • Use positive family and community engagement strategies
    • Provide information for English Learners and families in their home language
    • Incorporate attendance into the district or school PBIS model
    • Establish early warning systems to identify students who are struggling with attendance

    In addition to these supports, schools and districts can implement tiered interventions which help get students to school every day. Students experiencing difficulty with attendance can be struggling with a variety of issues at different times throughout the school year. Sometimes multiple issues occur simultaneously, and they can range from transportation problems to academic struggles to health-related concerns. A tiered system allows for broad supports to ensure every student can and does attend school along with targeted supports to address individual needs.

    These examples of Tier I interventions aim to prevent absenteeism before it affects achievement.


    Tier I

    • Create surveys for families and community members that determine and assess attendance barriers
    • Use multiple forms of personal communication for families, including phone calls, emails, staff notes and letters and social media accounts when sharing whole-school attendance reminders or reporting individual student absences
    • Use resources to recognize and reward good or improved attendance, rather than perfect attendance
    • Include attendance data in teacher-based teams, PBIS teams, building leadership teams and district leadership teams
    • Provide access to food, health and supports for other basic needs
    • Regularly monitor attendance data to identify trends and address barriers
    • Notify parent or guardian of student absences

    Using school attendance data, schools and districts can identify students who need extra support. Early interventions (Tier II) can address concerns before students reach absence thresholds while more intense interventions (Tier III) may be needed.


    Tier II

    • Use absenteeism data to identify students at-risk for reaching excessive attendance thresholds
    • Provide parent and guardian educational based programs, interventions and supports
    • Arrange conferences with families to identify attendance barriers and form solutions
    • Tailor interventions to physical and mental health supports
    • Provide academic and technical support to families and students
    • Develop and implement an absence intervention plan

    Tier III

    • Support counseling or mediation
    • Provide coordinated case management with multiple tiers supporting students and families
    • Connect to intervention programs available through juvenile authorities
    • Refer for truancy charges, if applicable

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Commonly Used Definitions

    What is the definition of chronic absenteeism?
    Chronic absenteeism, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act, is missing 10 percent or more of the school year for any reason. It includes excused and unexcused absences. Schools and districts are encouraged to provide supports to the student and his or her family before the student has missed 10 percent of the school year.
     

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    What is the definition of excessive absences?
    Ohio Revised Code 3321.191(C)(1) states that a student is excessively absent “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 the definitions of medical and nonmedical excuses?

    Ohio laws defines excused and unexcused absences and medical and nonmedical excused absences. Schools and districts can review and update local board-adopted attendance policies to include definitions of medical and nonmedical excuses, including a process and timeline for submitting medical excuses.

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    What is the definition of habitual truancy?

    In ORC 2151.011(B)(18), a habitually truant student is “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.”
    Habitual truancy is different from chronic absenteeism. Habitual truancy only counts absences without a legitimate excuse. When a student meets the definition of habitually truant, the 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 the difference between chronic absenteeism, excessive absences and habitual truancy?

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

    Absenteeism Type Consectutive
    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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Tracking and Reporting Attendance

    Are there additional Education Management Information System (EMIS) reporting requirements?
    Yes, Ohio law (ORC 3321.191(E)) requires districts to report the information below:
    1. When the district notified a parent or guardian that a student has excessive absences.
    2. When a child has been absent without legitimate excuse from the public school the child is supposed to attend for 30 or more consecutive hours, 42 or more hours in one school month, or 72 or more hours in one school year.
    3. 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.
    4. When an absence intervention plan has been implemented for a child under Ohio law (ORC 3321.191).

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    In what situations can an absence be excused?

    Even if an absence is excused, it still results in loss of educational opportunities that cannot be made up. Nonetheless, there are times when a student simply cannot be at school. ORC 3321.04 and OAC 3301-69-02 outline the situations in which an absence can be excused. Districts are encouraged to add to this list of excused absences to adapt their attendance policies to fit the needs of their students and families.

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    Why do excused absences count toward excessive absence triggers?

    When a student is regularly absent from school, the student is not only missing instruction time, but they are also missing opportunities for interventions, supports and social interactions. Furthermore, excessive absences may serve as an early warning indicator that districts can use to address absences before a student becomes habitually truant. Likewise, 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 excessive absences triggers?

    Suspensions do 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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    Do absences caused by suspensions count toward habitual truant triggers?

    Though suspensions are considered unexcused absences, they do not count toward truancy triggers because suspensions represent a legitimate excuse to be out of school.

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

    A student cannot be considered excessively absent or habitually truant for medical-related absences. 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. 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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    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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Excessively Absent

    What is compulsory school age?

    ORC 3321.01 states that 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 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 from the public school the child is supposed to attend for 38 or more hours in one school month or 65 or more hours in a school year, ORC 3321.191 directs that the following must occur:

    • The 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 district’s policy for addressing excessive absences; and
    • The 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 district must notify the student’s family in writing within seven days of the triggering absence. A district can consider different modes of communication when notifying the family. This may include an email, or friendly letter in the mail. Districts need to record the date the notice was given in their district’s student information system.

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

    The definition of excessively absent to includes absences with nonmedical excuses or without legitimate excuses for 38 hours in a month or 65 hours in a year according to ORC 3321.191 (C)(1). If a student is absent for 38 hours in a month or 65 hours in a year with medical excuses, the district is not required to notify the student’s parents, guardians, or custodians in writing.

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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 schools’ or districts’ 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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Habitually Truant

    What happens when a student becomes habitually truant from school?

    When a student is habitually truant, the following will occur:

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    Are all districts required to have absence intervention teams?

    No. 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 (ORC 3321.19(E)). This applies to districts and community schools. If a 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;
    2. Another representative from the school or district who has a relationship with the child; and
    3. The child’s parent (or parent’s designee) or the child’s guardian, custodian, guardian ad litem or temporary custodian. Refer to 3321.191(C)(2)(c) and 3321.191(C)(2)(d).

    The 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 district is unable to ensure participation of the parent, ORC 3321.191(C)(2)(e) allows 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 district cannot engage the parent in the absence intervention team after three good faith attempts?

    The 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 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 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. 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, 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 (ORC 3321.16 (B)(3)).

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

    When the absence intervention team defines what satisfactory progress looks like in the student’s plan, the student and the family will have a clear understanding of how to be successful. The absence intervention team will meet before the conclusion of the absence intervention plan to determine if the student made satisfactory progress based on the metrics shared in the plan. The team may consider attendance barriers in the determination. 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 district must have its attendance officer file a complaint against the student (ORC 3321.16 (B)). 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 prior to the last day of instruction of a school year, the school district or school may 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 district or school selects this method, the 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 district or school may reconvene the absence intervention process on the first day of instruction of the next school year.

    In ORC 3321.16(B)(3), in regard to students not successfully implementing their absence intervention plans, if the 61st calendar day after the implementation of the absence intervention plan falls on a day during the summer months, at the school district’s discretion, 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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District Policies

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

    Every district must have an approach to addressing attendance and excessive absenteeism outlined in their district truancy and attendance policies (ORC 3321.191).  District policy outlines the district’s interventions, supports and processes for ensuring every student gets to school every day. When a student is excessively absent, the 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 (ORC 3321.191 (C)(1)).

    A student absence intervention plan is a student-centered, personalized 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 district or school absence team develops the student absence intervention plan collaboratively with the student and his or her family or guardian. In addition to resources, the absence intervention plan contains agreed-upon strategies and interventions for getting the student to school every day. The student absence intervention plan holds the student and his or her parents or guardian accountable for attending school regularly.

    Continued absences or failure to make progress toward implementation of the absence intervention plan will result in the district filing a complaint with juvenile court.

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    Can districts suspend or expel students for truancy?

    No, districts cannot suspend (out of school) or expel students for truancy (ORC 3313.668 (A)). Districts can work proactively work with families and community organizations to break down barriers that prevent students from attending school.

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    Do local policies have to address zero tolerance?

    Yes. Districts must have zero tolerance policies for violent, disruptive or inappropriate behavior by their students per Ohio Revised Code 3313.534. However, districts must remove “excessive absences” from their zero tolerance policies. Districts also are no longer allowed to suspend or expel students for being absent from school without legitimate excuse (ORC 3313.668 (A)).

     
     

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    Do local policies need to define medical excuses for absence?

    Yes. The definitions of medical and nonmedical excuses are within the discretion of the districts. Local board-adopted attendance policies should be updated to include definitions of medical and nonmedical excuses, including a process and timeline for submitting medical excuses
    (OAC 3301.69.02 (B)(2)).

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FERPA

Last Modified: 9/30/2022 3:47:18 PM