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Supporting learning

Boy raising hand in class

Has your child missed school lately?

Jesus Villasenor-Ochoa

Reviewed August 2014 by La Tasha M. Shevlin, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency.

One of the most important things you can do to help your children succeed is to make sure they attend school regularly. Missing school can be a serious thing and can have adverse effects on your child.

What is truancy?

Students are considered truant when they miss school or class without a valid excuse. Truancy is defined as 3 days of unexcused absences in elementary school. In middle school, junior high school, or high school, students may be considered truant if they miss three or more class periods on three days. In Minnesota, students must attend school until age 16. Teens ages 16 and 17 may withdraw from school only if their parents give written permission following a meeting with school personnel.

Excused absences

Usually students can miss class for reasons such as:

When your child is absent with a valid excuse, contact the school attendance clerk the day of the absence. When your child returns to school, some schools may require a written note explaining the absence.

Unexcused absences

Sometimes parents keep their children home for reasons they feel are okay. In a colder climate, some parents may feel that it’s acceptable to keep children home when the weather is below a certain temperature. However, this is not an excuse for children not to attend school. In Minnesota, all children must go to school even when the weather is unpleasant unless the school district determines it’s unsafe.

Likewise, a child staying out of school because they have missed the school bus or need to take care of younger siblings is also not excused. Keeping a child out of school for these reasons can lead to the child getting behind in schoolwork. It also can create gaps in a child’s learning.

Some examples of unexcused absences include:

How to encourage school attendance

Parent involvement is one of the greatest protections against truancy. Here are ways you can stay involved:

If your child has been missing school, ask yourself and your child these questions:

Truancy can have strong negative effects on students' lives. It can block future opportunities and is associated with drug use, daytime crime, and violence. Coordination between home, school, and the student is key.


Reid, K. (2012). The strategic management of truancy and school absenteeism: finding solutions from a national perspective. Educational Review, 64(2), 211-222.

Richtman, K. S. (2007). The truancy intervention of the Ramsey County attorney’s office: a collaborative approach to school success. Family Court Review, 45(3), 421-437.

Teasley, M.L. (2004). Absenteeism and truancy: risk, protection, and best practice implications for school social workers. Children & Schools, 26(2), 117-128.

Related resources

School refusalAmerican Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry — Explore whether your child's fear or panic about school warrants professional help, and get ideas for things you can try to bring back the joy in school.

Grades at school — Get a better understanding about grades and how to turn poor grades into positive learning opportunities.

School: Making the most of it — Find out what parents can do to become more engaged with their teenager's school, and how this makes a difference for children's engagement. Part of the Teen Talk Fact Sheet series. English | español

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