What does Virginia law say about school attendance?
In brief, Virginia law:
- requires parents to send children to school;
- requires students to attend school;
- requires schools to take specific action when children are not enrolled or students fail to attend;
- authorizes law enforcement officers to pick up students who are skipping school; and
- authorizes juvenile courts to take action against parents and/or children for failure to attend.
Basic provisions governing school attendance are listed in the table below.
Code of Virginia
Compulsory Attendance Laws
Appointment of Attendance Officers
Teachers to Keep Daily Attendance Records
Reports of Children Enrolled and Non-enrolled
Duties of Attendance Officers
Complaints to Court When Parents Fail to Comply
Violations Constitute Misdemeanor
Inducing Children to Absent Themselves
Law Enforcement Officers and Truant Children
Proceedings Against Habitually Absent Children
Duties of the Board of Education
Parental Responsibility and Involvement Requirements
Proceedings Against Certain Parents
More detailed information about the legal framework for truancy prevention and intervention and specific procedural requirements are contained in the Virginia Department of Education’s Improving School Attendance: A Resource Guide for Virginia Schools. (PDF)
Attendance and Driving
Code of Virginia § 46.2-323 provides for the suspension of the driver's license of anyone under 18 years of age who has 10 or more unexcused absences from public school on consecutive school days.
Attendance and Religious Holidays
Code of Virginia § 22.1-254.C. requires local school boards to develop policies ensuring that any student's absence because of the observance of a religious holiday be recorded as excused on the student's attendance record and that a student not be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award or of the right to take an alternate test or examination, for any which he missed because of such absence.
Notification of Social Services
Code of Virginia § 63.2-606. requires schools to report non-attendance of children receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to local departments of social services. Families receiving TANF are required to comply with compulsory school attendance laws.
How is truancy defined in Virginia law?
Truancy is addressed in Code of Virginia § 16.1-228 as part of the definition of a Child in Need of Supervision (CHINSup) which contains several important elements.
A Child in Need of Supervision (CHINSup) means a child who is subject to the compulsory attendance law yet remains habitually absent, and:
- the child has been offered adequate opportunity to benefit from all education services that are required to be provided by law;
- the school or other appropriate agency has made a reasonable effort to effect the student’s attendance without success; and
- the school system has provided the court with documentation that it has complied with all the provisions of Code of Virginia § 22.1-258.
What disciplinary action can be taken for truancy?
Attendance requirements may be included as part of student conduct policy or may be addressed elsewhere in policy at the discretion of the school board. Virginia’s Student Conduct Policy Guidelines (PDF) state: “The policy should establish an expectation for regular attendance, criteria for absences to be excused and not excused, and applicable disciplinary consequences and intervention assistance for unexcused absences and tardies.”
Code of Virginia § 22.1-277 restricts the use of suspension for truancy: "Pupils may be suspended or expelled from attendance at school for sufficient cause, however, in no cases may sufficient cause for suspensions include only instances of truancy."
Can School Resource Officers enforce compulsory attendance laws?
Any law enforcement officer or attendance officer may pick up any child who:
- is reported to be truant from the schools; and
- who is reasonably determined to be a public school student and is either truant or has been expelled.
The officer may deliver the child to the appropriate school, alternative education program, or truancy center.
The officers are authorized to transport the pupil to any of the above-listed sites without charging the parent or child with violation of the law. (Code of Virginia § 22.1-266)
Virginia’s compulsory attendance laws generally give responsibility for enforcement to attendance officers and other school officials rather than law enforcement officers. Laws set forth numerous actions to be taken by attendance officers, principals, and juvenile court intake officers. (Code of Virginia §§ 22.1-254, 22.1-258, 22.1-259, 22.1-260, 22.1-261, and 22.1-262)
Can any action be taken against adults who allow truants to “hang out” during school hours?
Inducing or attempting to induce any child to be absent unlawfully from school or knowingly employing or harboring any child absent unlawfully is a misdemeanor. (Code of Virginia § 22.1-265)