Under Pennsylvania law, all students between the ages of six (6) and eighteen (18) must attend school every day. Once a student is enrolled in school, this includes students in kindergarten, they are subject to compulsory school laws until the student reaches age 18. The student can only be withdrawn if they transfer out of the District. The student will remain on the District’s roll and the student/family is subject to truancy court if they do not attend school. A parent/guardian who enrolls their child in kindergarten may formally withdraw their child from school prior to reaching compulsory school age (age six), at which point the child would no longer be subject to compulsory school laws until they turn six (6) years old.
A student shall be considered in attendance if present at any place where school is in session by authority of the Board; if receiving approved tutorial instruction or health or therapeutic services; if engaged in an approved and properly supervised independent study, work-study, or career education program; if receiving approved homebound instruction; or if the student’s placement is instruction in the home.
Pennsylvania Department of Education regulations state that students have a legal right to attend school until the age of 21. For further guidance, please visit the Office of Student Enrollment and Placement website.
During the time that a student is of school age, they are entitled to attend the public schools in The School District of Philadelphia. Students who turn 21 during the school term are entitled to finish out the school year. Parents/guardians are expected to:
- · Ensure that their student(s) between the ages of six (6) and eighteen (18) are enrolled in school and attend school regularly, on time, and for the entire school day.
- · Emphasize the importance of on-time attendance in school, class, and supervised activities-and celebrate good attendance and success.
- · Send their student(s) to school every day prepared to participate and learn.
- · Establish reasonable, age-appropriate curfews and bedtimes.
- · Make appointments for their student(s) outside of the school day or days when schools are closed whenever possible
- · Ensure that their student receives the periodic student health examinations and immunizations that are required by law.
- · Schedule family vacations to coincide with school recesses.
- · Call the school to report when their student is or will be absent.
- · Provide a written excuse for every absence when their student returns to school, per
- · attendance guidelines.
- · Provide a written excuse for every late arrival and early departure, per attendance guidelines
- · Provide the school with correct, current addresses, emergency contacts, home, cell, and work telephone numbers, e-mail addresses at the beginning of each school year and update information whenever there are changes.
- · Participate in school attendance improvement conferences for their student, to improve daily student attendance when necessary.
When Can a Student be Absent?
Sometimes students have to miss school. Absences which meet the conditions or situations indicated below under Excused/Lawful Absence shall be considered an excused absence.
Pursuant to the District’s attendance policy, written excuse notes explaining the absence must be given to the school within three (3) days upon the student’s return to school. If the note is not submitted to the school within the required time frame, the day(s) may not be excused.
- All absences resulting in a total of three (3) or more consecutive days due to illness will require a written excuse note by a licensed healthcare provider.
- For absences that do not total three (3) consecutive days, parents may submit a written excuse note stating the reason for the absence. Excuse notes from a healthcare provider may also be submitted in lieu of a parent note for any absence.
- When a student has been absent due to illness, excused with a parent note, totaling eight (8) days (cumulative), all subsequent absences may require a written excuse note from a licensed healthcare provider.
Written excuse notes must include a valid telephone number or other means of contact for verification purposes.
The following conditions or situations constitute reasonable cause for absence from school:
- Obtaining professional health care or therapy service rendered by a licensed practitioner
- Upon written request by a parent/guardian, a student may be excused during school hours for the purpose of obtaining professional health care or therapy service only if the following requirements are met:
- The health or therapeutic services are to be rendered by licensed practitioners.
- It is not practical or possible for the student to receive the services outside of school hours.
- The time of necessary absence from school involves a minimum of interference with the student’s regular program of studies.
- llness, including if a student is dismissed by designated District staff during school hours for health-related reasons
- Recovery from accident
- Required court appearance
- Death in family
- Educational trip/tour if the following conditions are met:
- The person in parental relation submits the documentation required for excusal prior to the absence, within the appropriate time frame.
- The student’s participation has been approved by the Superintendent or principal.
- The adult directing and supervising the tour or trip is acceptable to the person in parental relation.
- College tours, trade school tours, career and technical training program tours, community college tours, or tours of other non-District schools, with prior approval.
- The District may limit the number and duration of non-school-sponsored educational tours or trips for which excused absences may be granted to a student during the school year.
- Observance of a religious holiday observed by a bona fide religious group, upon prior written request from the person in parental relation.
- Out-of-school suspension
- Family Emergency (An unexpected, serious event that is outside of the control of the student’s family)
- Requires parental note explaining the emergency received within 3 school days of the student’s return. School staff will evaluate if the situation constitutes a family emergency.
- Participation in a project sponsored by a statewide or countywide 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), or combined 4-H and FFA group, upon prior written request.
- Participation in a musical performance in conjunction with a national veterans’ organization or incorporated unit, as defined in law, for an event or funeral. The national veterans’ organization or incorporated unit must provide the student with a signed excuse, which shall include the date, location, and time of the event or funeral. The student shall furnish the signed excuse to the school prior to being excused from school.
- Other urgent reasons that may reasonably cause a student’s absence, as well as circumstances related to homelessness and foster care.
The following students may be temporarily excused from the requirements of attendance at District schools:
- For the purpose of receiving tutorial instruction in a field not offered in the district’s curricula, with certain requirements*.
- Students participating in a religious instruction program, with certain conditions*.
- School-age students unable to attend school upon recommendation of the school physician and a psychiatrist or school psychologist, or both, and with approval of the Secretary of Education of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
*As outlined in the 204 Attendance Policy
Absences which do not meet the above conditions or situations shall be considered an unexcused/unlawful absence.
An “unexcused” or “illegal” absence occurs when a student is absent without a valid excuse in writing. That means that either no written note was submitted to the school upon the student’s return or that the reason provided in the note was deemed invalid. Examples of invalid excuses include (but not limited to): babysitting, waking up late, illness of a family member, and vacation. Absences shall be treated as unexcused until the school receives a written excuse explaining the absence, to be submitted within three (3) days of the absence.
An out-of-school suspension may not be considered an unexcused absence.
Responses to Non-Attendance (Truancy)
When a student has been absent for three (3) days (consecutive/non-consecutive) during the current school year without a lawful excuse, District staff shall provide notice to the parent/guardian within ten (10) school days of the student’s third unexcused absence.
If the student continues to accumulate additional unexcused absences after issuance of the notice, the parent/guardian and student will be invited to attend a School Attendance Improvement Conference (SAIC) where a School Attendance Improvement Plan (SAIP) will be created in order to support the family in identifying and alleviating attendance barriers. A SAIP must be developed for any student by their sixth (6th) unexcused absence. The parent/guardian and student must be invited to this conference in advance. Neither the student nor the parent/guardian shall be required to participate, although it is highly recommended. The SAIC shall occur even if the parent/guardian declines to participate or fails to attend the scheduled conference.
If the student’s attendance does not improve after implementation and progress monitoring of the SAIP, and has ten (10) or more illegal absences, the student may be referred to Truancy Court, in order to prevent, address, and reduce chronic truant behavior. At that time a truancy provider will contact the parent/guardian in order to assist further with alleviating barriers to attendance.
The student and parent/guardian will be required to attend truancy court and the parent/guardian must comply with the truancy court order. The court order may include a referral for services. If the student’s attendance does not improve at the truancy court level, truancy court may refer the case to family court. In family court, a Judge may adjudicate the student as dependent, and assign the case to the Department of Human Services for more intensive services.
Suspension from school or transfer to an alternative education setting is not a permissible response to truancy.