School Attendance Facts
Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade. Students who cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.
A study of public-school students in Utah found that an incidence of chronic absenteeism in even a single year between 8th and 12th grade was associated with a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of dropping out.
High School dropout, which chronically absent students are more likely to experience, has been linked to poor outcomes later in life, from poverty and diminished health to involvement in the criminal justice system.
Tennessee students who are chronically absent in kindergarten are 15 percentage points less likely to reach proficiency in either third grade math or ELA.
If a student was chronically absent in the previous school year, he or she is 10 times more likely than a non-chronically absent student to be chronically absent in the following year.
TN Attendance Law
What does Tennessee Law say?The school year for students is 180 days, and student attendance at school is important every one of those days! Your child’s learning is directly linked to being in class every day. To ensure that every child and parent knows how important it is to attend school daily, Tennessee has a Compulsory School Attendance Law (TCA-49-6-3001) which requires all children ages 6-17 inclusive to attend school each day.
Legal Consequences for Truant Students:
Tennessee requires schools to have a multistage intervention program designed to address truancy problems. The first stage of intervention starts when a student has been absent without a valid excuse for five days in an academic year. Among other things, the student and parents will attend a conference with school officials, be required to sign an attendance contract, and attend follow-up meetings. If the problems continue, interventions will ramp up to include things like Saturday courses, community services, and teen court (but not suspensions).
If the intervention plan isn't successful and the student's parent isn't willing to cooperate with the plan, the school may report the truant to juvenile court, where the student could come under the court's jurisdiction as an "unruly child." In some local school districts, referral to the juvenile court is required when the plan isn't working.
In addition, schools will formally withdraw any students who’ve had 10 unexcused absences in a row (or a total of 15 during a single semester), which means they won’t be able to advance to the next grade. Teenagers who’ve been withdrawn from school will also have their driver’s license suspended or won’t be able to get one until they turn 18. (Tenn. Code §§ 37-1-132, 49-6-3007, 49-6-3009, 49-6-3017 (2019).)
Penalties for Parents of Truant Students:
Because parents are legally responsible for sending their children to school, they could face misdemeanor charges for educational neglect. If they're found guilty, they could be fined and/or sent to jail—up to $50 and/or 30 days for each day the child skipped school. (Tenn. Code §§ 40-35-111, 49-6-3009 (2019).)