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Policy JH Student Absences and Excuses
Issued 9/04
Purpose: To establish the basic structure for allowing and excusing student absences.
The board believes that attendance is a key factor in student achievement. Any absence from school represents an educational loss to the student. However, the board recognizes that some absences are unavoidable.
In order to receive credit for a high school course, a student must attend at least 85 days (for a 90-day semester course) or 170 days (for a 180-day year course). The board may grant approval of excessive absences in accordance with board policy.
Any student who misses school must present a written excuse, signed by his/her parent/legal guardian or an excuse written by a medical provider. The excuse will contain such other information as directed by the administration. Student excuses are considered to be a part of student records and such excuses will be processed by those school-based employees designated to administer attendance regulations and will be provided to other staff who have a need to know.
If a student fails to bring a valid excuse to school within five days, he/she will automatically receive an unexcused or unlawful absence. If a student brings a false (or forged) excuse, the school official receiving that note must refer the student to the school administration for appropriate action. If a student accumulates absences in excess of 10, a medical note may be required in order to assist the principal in making decisions regarding lawful absences and denial of credit.
A. Lawful and unlawful absences
1. The district will consider a student lawfully absent under the following circumstances.
•  The student is ill and attendance at school would endanger the student's health or the health of others.
•  There is a death in the student's immediate family. Absences of this nature should not exceed three per occurrence. Excessive absences as a result of death may be deemed unlawful.
•  There is a serious illness in the student's immediate family. A statement from a physician or healthcare provider may be required. Absences of this nature should not exceed three per year.
•  There is a recognized religious holiday of the student's faith.
•  The student is traveling or attending events that the principal approved in advance as an educational experience.
•  Emergencies and/or extreme hardships at the discretion of the principal.
•  Other lawful absences are explained in administrative rule JH-R.
Chronic or extended illness requires a certification of the illness from the physician or other healthcare provider. Parents/Legal guardians who anticipate a student's absence of more than five consecutive days due to an extended health problem should apply immediately for homebound instruction by calling the school guidance office. A child is not counted as absent if the homebound is approved and the student receives instruction for each day approved.
2. The district will consider a student unlawfully absent under the following circumstances.
•  The student is willfully absent from school without the knowledge of his/her parents/legal guardians .
•  The student is absent without acceptable cause with the knowledge of his/her parent/legal guardian.
•  The student is absent and fails to turn in an acceptable note within five days of the student's return from an illness.
•  The student is absent after the parent/legal guardian has received notice that a medical note is required but the medical note is not presented.
B. Truancy
1. Truant
A child from age five until age 17 years meets the definition of a truant when the child has three consecutive unlawful absences or a total of five unlawful absences.
2. Habitual truant
A "habitual" truant is a child, ages 12 to 17 years, who fails to comply with the intervention plan developed by the school, the child, and the parent(s)/legal guardian(s) and who accumulates two or more additional unlawful absences.  This child may need court intervention and an initial truancy petition may be filed.  The written intervention plan and documentation of non-compliance must be attached to the truancy petition asking for court intervention.
3. Chronic truant
A "chronic" truant is a child, ages 12 to 17 years, who has been through the school intervention process, has reached the level of habitual truant, has been referred to family court and placed on an order to attend school and continues to accumulate unlawful absences. Should other community alternatives and referrals fail to remedy the attendance problem, the "chronic" truant may be referred to the family court for violation of a previous court order.  All school intervention plans existing to this point for this child and family must accompany the contempt of court petition as well as a written recommendation from the school and/or attendance supervisor to the court on action the court should take.
C. Intervention plans
1. Once a child is determined to be truant as defined in Section B(1) school officials must make every reasonable effort to meet with the parent(s)/legal guardian(s) to identify the reasons for the student's unlawful absences. These efforts should include telephone calls and home visits as well as written messages.  The principal or his/her designee and the attendance clerk will coordinate communication between the parent/legal guardian,       child, community resources and school personnel in an effort to develop a written intervention plan to address the student's unlawful absences. The attendance supervisor will meet monthly with those designated school personnel to review the attendance intervention plans of those students who have been identified as truant, habitually truant and chronically truant.
2. The intervention plan must include the following.
a. Reasons for the unlawful absences.
b. Actions to be taken by the parent/legal guardian and student to resolve the cause of the unlawful absences.
c. Documentation of referrals to appropriate service providers and, if available, alternative school and community-based programs.
d. Action to be taken by school personnel.
e. Actions to be taken in the event unlawful absences continue.
f. Signature of the parent/legal guardian or evidence that attempts were made to involve the parent/legal guardian.
g. Results of actions taken by all the parties.
h. Revisions to plans as needed.
D. Referral to the attendance supervisor
1. Once school officials have completed an intervention plan with the parent/legal guardian (and the student if he/she is 12 years of age or older) and the student accumulates one additional unlawful absence, a referral must be made to the district attendance supervisor. Documentation of continued efforts by the school and/or attendance supervisor must be documented on the intervention plan form.
2. In addition, if attempts to involve the parents/legal guardians have been unsuccessful and the student has been identified as truant, a referral must be made to the district attendance office. Documentation of all attempts to involve the parent/legal guardian must be included in the referral packet.
E. Referrals and judicial intervention
At no time should a child or parent/legal guardian be referred to family court to be placed under an order to attend school prior to the written intervention planning being completed with the parent/legal guardian. Should the parent/legal guardian refuse to cooperate with the intervention planning to remedy the attendance problem, the school district has the authority to refer the student to family court in accordance with S.C. Code Ann. 59-65-50. In addition, schools must exhaust all reasonable alternatives to court action if a child or parent/legal guardian has already been placed on a school attendance order before a referral is made to family court for violation of that order.
F. Transfer of plans
If a student transfers to another public school in South Carolina, intervention plans will be forwarded to the receiving school. School officials will contact the parent/legal guardian to review the plan and revise as appropriate.
G. Approval of absences in excess of 10 days and approval of credit
1. Approval or disapproval of absences
The principal will approve or disapprove any student's absence in excess of 10 days for the purpose of awarding credit and to determine if these absences are lawful or unlawful. A medical note or other documentation will be required after a student accumulates 10 absences in order to assist the principal in making that decision. A principal may decide not to include those absences that are medically excused as part of the 10 total absences provided the number of medical notes is not deemed excessive.
2. High school credit
In order to receive one Carnegie unit of credit, a student must be in attendance at least 120 hours, per unit, regardless of the number of days missed. Students whose absences are approved for the purpose of awarding credit should be allowed to make up any work missed in order to satisfy the 120-hour requirement. Principals should consider student absences giving appropriate consideration to unique situations that may arise within their districts when students do not meet the minimum attendance requirements.  Therefore, principals should allow students whose excessive absences are approved, regardless of whether these absences are lawful, unlawful or a combination thereof, to make up work missed to satisfy the 120-hour requirement.
Appeals procedures for denial of promotion/credit
Appeals of the principal's decision will be processed through the district's administrative functions (area assistant superintendent, district superintendent, respectively) with the board of education being the final appeal step.
Adopted 9/9/75; Revised 8/29/79, 2/28/84, 11/13/90, 6/25/91, 4/23/02, 9/28/04
Legal references:
S.C. Code, 1976, as amended:
Section 59-65-90 - State Board to establish rules and regulations defining lawful and unlawful absences.
State Board of Education Regulations:
R-43-274-Student attendance.