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School Attendance Matters
Principally Speaking 02-07-24

While it may seem obvious to most, regular school attendance for all students is critically important for long-term academic success. Good attendance has also been tied into positive socio-emotional development. Fortunately, the vast majority of students in Escalon’s schools have good overall attendance patterns, with district-wide attendance exceeding 96 percent across all schools between August and October of 2023. Although the majority of student absences from our K-12 schools are legally excused, such as those caused by illnesses or medical appointments, some are not, which creates unfortunate challenges for both students, teachers, and school administration.

It should be noted that regardless of whether an absence is excused or unexcused, the end result is identical: the student has missed out on valuable instructional time. What’s the difference between the two? The difference has to do with the manner in which school authorities are tasked to respond to student absences. Excused absences, such as those caused by an illness, a visit to the doctor or dentist, a religious appointment or a funeral, are recorded and do not usually require additional oversight or investigation. Unexcused absences include everything else. When numerous absences take place, whether excused or unexcused, it might trigger investigation and possible legal action.

Students who miss nine or more days of school during a school year are considered chronically absent from the classroom. Chronic absenteeism is often linked to poor academic performance and behavioral problems. When students regularly miss school, they have to work harder to get caught up with the instruction they missed. In addition, students who lag academically are more likely to have difficulties interacting with their peers. Chronic absenteeism is, not surprisingly, an important factor in high school age students dropping out of school.

When school authorities detect a pattern of absenteeism steps are taken to provide parents and guardians with information and offer help. For example, if students are repeatedly reported to be sick, the district nurse will be looped in and a call made home to ask for any relevant information and provide recommendations or support as needed. Our online student attendance system, called Aeries, generates reports that are sent home to parents and guardians when students miss more than five days of school for any reason. We recognize that parents and guardians do not necessarily keep track of every day a student misses school or arrives late.

When student absences become excessive, are repeatedly unexcused and/or unexplained, parents will be held to a higher burden of proof regarding the causes of those absences and may also be subject to legal action through the SARB, or Student Attendance Review Board process. In much the same way that an employer may seek additional information from an employee who is calling in sick repeatedly, school officials may require that a doctor’s note be provided when absences due to reported illnesses become excessive. When absences are repeatedly unexcused school authorities are required to act on behalf of the student who is missing school and refer parents or guardians to SARB for resolution.

The Student Attendance Review Board takes place at the Escalon Police Department and involves law enforcement, a community representative, and various school officials. During the hearing the student’s attendance, academic and behavioral records are reviewed and discussed and parents or guardians are given the opportunity to explain the reasons behind the poor attendance.

SARB hearings occur as a result of continued poor attendance after parents or guardians have been repeatedly notified about attendance problems and it has not been resolved. Ideally, the result of the SARB hearing is the creation of a plan to eliminate poor attendance from recurring and remind parents and guardians of their legal responsibility to ensure that their child attends school regularly. Parents or guardians that attend a SARB hearing are required to sign a document agreeing to abide by the plan or risk citation by law enforcement.

Parents and guardians who wish to avoid the SARB process are encouraged to communicate the cause of all absences with the school office as soon as possible, provide pertinent medical information if a child suffers from any condition that might result in an elevated number of absences, and avoid taking them out of school whenever possible. We also recommend that families review the district’s school calendar when planning family vacations to avoid the loss of valuable instructional time. If family plans cannot be coordinated within the school calendar, we recommend early communication with the school and setting up an independent study plan for otherwise lost days of school.


Principally Speaking is a monthly article, contributed by principals from Escalon Unified School District sites, throughout the school year. It is designed to update the community on school events and activities.