Ambrosio E. Rodriguez

Toll Free:
(800) 852-9851
(213) 995-6767

Truancy Laws in California

California’s state Constitution declares public education to be an essential and fundamental right for all. The state takes public education very seriously and has strict attendance requirements for all students between the ages of 6 and 18. Children between these ages who are frequently absent or tardy – as well as their parents – are subject to disciplinary action.

California Attendance Policy

California laws are not meant to punish students who are repeatedly absent or tardy. Rather, the laws are intended to encourage consistent and timely attendance so that children can receive all benefits of a public education. Students who attend private school, programs for the mentally gifted, are home-schooled, receive tutor instruction, or have part-time work permits are not subject to California truancy laws.

A grading system is used to track students who violate the California truancy laws. A student is labeled as “truant” if he or she, without a valid excuse, has:

  • Three absences;
  • Three tardies; and/or
  • Three absences of 30 minutes or greater.

Any combination of the above factors can be used in labeling a student as a truant. A student is labeled as habitually truant if he or she misses school 5 or more times without a valid excuse.

Truancy Process

California imposes certain requirements on the school once a student is considered to be truant. The following breakdown explains the minimum requirements imposed on a school in response to a student’s continued absences.

First Notice of Truancy “T1”

After the first three combined unexcused absences and tardies, the school is required to notify the parent or guardian. The purpose is to alert the parents to their child’s absences and/or tardiness in order to afford the parent the opportunity to fix the problem at home.

Second Notice of Truancy “T2”

After a student’s fourth unexcused absence or tardy, the school is required to report the student to the attendance supervisor or school superintendent. Most California schools have special attendance task forces set up to help students who have a problem with truancy.

Third Notice of Truancy “T3”

A student’s fifth unexcused absence or tardy requires the school to contact the parent and attempt to arrange a meeting. The meeting is intended to help parents, students, and the school understand the reasons for the truancy and to figure out a solution.

Once a student misses five days without an excuse, he or she is labeled as chronically or habitually truant. Schools have a myriad of options to help habitual truants, including:

  • Referring cases to the Student Attendance and Review Board (SARB) for further investigation;
  • Holding mandatory hearings with the parent, student, and school attendance liaison;
  • Requiring the student and/or parent to enroll in mandatory time-management and counseling courses with proof of attendance; or
  • Referring cases to the District Attorney if the situation calls for extreme intervention.

Consequences for Truancy – Students

The purpose of California’s truancy laws is not to punish students who miss school, but rather to get those students who are chronically absent back into the classroom so that they can enjoy the benefits of a public education. As a result, the consequences for truancy are designed to discourage truancy. Truancy and/or chronic truancy may result in:

  • License suspension, restriction, or delay of driving privileges;
  • Parental accompaniment to school;
  • Mandatory educational programs; or
  • Referral to Juvenile Court.

The Student Attendance and Review Board (SARB) is an oft-used tool to help truant students get back on track. SARB is utilized as an alternative to court – for both students and parents – and encourages all involved to find solutions to the truancy problems. Schools who maintain SARBs reserve the power to refer students to juvenile court for further disciplinary action should the student not respond to the efforts of the SARB.

Consequences for Truancy – Parents

Parents are the first line of defense against truancy. The state views a parent’s responsibility to get their child to school as fundamental. As a result, the consequences for a parent of a truant student can be significant. If schools determine that a case warrants a referral to the local District Attorney, parents can face criminal charges for their child’s truancy.

Failure to Compel a Student to Attend School. A parent may be assessed fines of up to $500 after receiving notice of their child’s truancy. The state maintains that it is a parent’s responsibility to encourage and compel their children to attend school and to get there on time.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. In some cases, a parent may be charged with this Class A Misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Chronic Truancy. If a parent of a child in grade Kindergarten – 8th grade allows that child to miss 10% or more of school, that parent may be charged with this Class A Misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. It is important to note that the state has no exemptions for public school students who have medical issues, emotional or behavioral problems, or are enrolled in special education classes. However, each case is assessed on the facts and circumstances of which it is comprised, so it is unlikely for a court to hand down such a severe punishment if the parent is making concerted efforts to get their child to school.

California firmly believes that public education is a right each student in the state is entitled to receive. To discourage truancy California requires adherence to strict attendance guidelines. If a student misses (or is tardy for) three or more days of school the school is required to notify the student’s parent(s). If a student continues to engage in truant behavior, the school may require a hearing to discuss the problem and develop a solution. If a student is chronically truant, he or she may face penalties, and his or her parent may face criminal charges.

The Rodriguez Law Group


Leave a Comment

  • Mike Cambruzzi


    Good morning and welcome to Monday!

    I am a little confused with paragraph 3, last sentence. Is a child labeled truant with a “valid” excuse, or are they labeled truant with an invalid excuse?

    Thank you for clarifying if you would. It’s early and my brain is a bit jumbled!


    • Ambrosio Rodriguez

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you for your question. That was a typo. It should read: “A student is labeled as “truant” if he or she, without a valid excuse, has:” – it has been updated accordingly. Thank you for bringing that to our attention.

  • Octavio Solis

    so the answer to an unruly teen a single parent has no control of to fine the parent, put the parent in jail for a year. how is that beneficial?
    A) If the parent is a low income barely making ends meet. they cannot afford that fine!
    B) jail time for the parent? how does this help the teen. when ge becomes homeless. parent loses their job. who pucks up the bill once they are out and on welfare, all because of an unruly teen and this idiotic law.

    • Ambrosio Rodriguez

      Hi Octavio,

      Great points. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Edward Contreras

    Can a school tardy specialist tell us as a parents that our son has 10 tardies that if he gets one more he by state law will have all school privelages taken for 6 weeks and 5 days of lunch detention with no prior notice until his 10th tardies

  • Emilio

    Can principal prevent my son from going to his senior prom for not completing saturday

  • P. Mac

    I’m just wondering what are considered valid excuses and how to deal with an attendance policy that allows for very few valid / excused absences. If my child misses for example 15 or 20 days of school for the entire school year all due to illness with documents & doctor’s notes, am I as the parent still going to be punished? My child’s school has a limit of 10 days total of excused & unexcused absences before the threats begin. I think that’s a ridiculously low number of days for a young child to miss considering they catch colds every other week when they are in grade school. Is there no recourse for the parents? If we can’t afford private school and our children get sick often & miss school often what are we to do? Also these attendance policies are completely about funding. The school’s funding is tied to daily attendance thanks to No Child Left Behind rather than number of students enrolled as it should be. Personally I feel these strict attendance policies force parents to send their children to school while sick and spread germs needlessly just as seen with the terrible flu season earlier this year. Anyway sorry for the rant! Thanks for your reply.

  • Danielle

    What constitutes as a “valid excuse”?

    What if the truancy is less than 30 minutes but has happened on over 50+ occasions? I have a young family member whose parents share custody and one of the parents continually drops the child off late to school.

  • Calaveras County

    I just found out I’m being charged with class A misdemeanor and without even speaking to me, apparently I am to turn myself into jail July 10th!
    This is total bullshit! I have 3 kids, just recently became single after a horrendous three-year divorce process and foreclosure of a home my son did miss a lot of school months actually but we were going through a horrendous time didn’t quite know where we were going to live and staying with family and friends in different locations it wasn’t doable to take him into school, I had almost no money and gas is a huge factor! I was intending to enroll him in a private summer school so he can make up what has been missed but now apparently that won’t be possible since I’m supposed to be going into jail!
    With all the parents in this county who are major drug users and children don’t even appear to be in school , they are coming after me?!!

  • Ryan

    Hello there,
    I’m not sure if you guys even check this anymore. But I really would like to talk to whomever wrote this. I have a very particular case where my daughters mother was responsible for my daughter missing 1/3 of the school year. This particular school district, according to these statements above did not pursue the way they should have. I believe neglect took place on both my daughters mother and the school district. Please I would like to speak with someone about this in your office about this. You have my email. Please get back to me.

  • Khalil

    What are considered valid or excused absences? Can a parent take a child on a 2 week vacation and just have the child do the work while away?
    If a parent does this, what are the repercussions?

  • Nini Nolen

    Why is picking up your child 15 to 20 minutes before school is out consider truant?

  • Katherine

    Hello I was wondering how many minutes late is considered tardy by law in California? I live in San Bernardino and it’s a new thing at my kids school that even if it’s just one minute late for some reason they give them a tardy slip even if the class is is still walking to the classroom and hasn’t even taken attendance.. it’s really bothering me so if u can give me a little advice on the actual laws

  • Michele

    To whom it may concern; I read what you had to say about truancy. My child has missed about 5 days maybe 6 and they were all for medical reasons. Now, I’m faced with a SARB meeting and all the BS that goes along with it. How is she truant when each absence is medically excused??? When I called your office the man that answered had no idea what i was asking about truancy and stated you don’t handle anything with that. So, why speak on it? I’m frustrated with all of this!!!!

Call Now Button