The 1995 Washington Legislature passed a compulsory attendance law known as the “Becca Bill”
(RCW 28A.225). The Becca Bill is intended to provide tools for schools, parents, and the Juvenile Court to keep children in school, and hold children and parents accountable to the order of the Court.
Public school districts are required to document their actions to comply with the truancy laws. Upon a child’s seventh unexcused absence in a month, or not later than the tenth unexcused absence in a year, the public school district shall file a truancy petition in Juvenile Court. The petition can allege violations to truancy laws by the parent, child, or both.
In an attempt to resolve the underlying issues leading to the student’s truancy before requiring the student and parent(s) to appear in court, the school district may “stay” the petition and schedule a Community Truancy Board hearing. The CTB is an opportunity for the student, parent, school, and other members of the community to look at the obstacles to attendance and identify possible solutions in order to avoid the legal system taking further action.
Failure to attend the scheduled CTB meeting will compel the school district to remove the stay and ask for a court date at the Juvenile Court.
A student and parent summoned to court as the result of the filing of a truancy petition will be required to attend an attendance workshop, conducted by probation staff. The workshop will last approximately one hour and will provide information about issues involving truancy, the truancy court process, and educational options and resources.
Following the workshop, the student and parent will decide whether they agree with the filing of the truancy petition.
If the student and parent are in agreement with the statements made by the school district in the petition, they will sign an agreed truancy order.
If the student or parent does not agree that the statements are true, a contested fact-finding hearing will be scheduled for a future court date in front of the truancy court commissioner.
The student, parent, and school district must comply with the requirements of the Court as set forth in the truancy order. It is the school district’s responsibility to report any further unexcused absences to the court by filing a motion for contempt. The Court may, at its discretion, schedule review hearings to examine the student’s attendance and academic progress.
If the student or parent is not compliant with the truancy order, the school district may schedule a contempt hearing to determine the reasons. If the student and/or parent is found in contempt of court, sanctions may be imposed, including, but not limited to:
Development of an educational plan.
Participation in a mental health
assessment and counseling.
Participation in a physical health assessment
Testing for the use of controlled substances
Participation in a Drug & Alcohol evaluation and compliance with any treatment recommendations
Juvenile Court Jurisdiction:
A truancy order is usually put in place with a jurisdiction length of one year, during which time the student’s attendance will be monitored closely. If the student and/or parent are non-compliant with the truancy order, jurisdiction can be extended for a longer period of time, up until the student’s 18th birthday. The truancy order will be dismissed by the Court upon expiration of jurisdiction without further notice to the student, parent, or the school district.