Overview of Court Process
Community Truancy Boards
Contacts for Further Information
All youth between the ages of 8 and 18 are required to attend school every day. When these youth fail to attend their assigned school, they are considered truant. Washington State law, RCW 28A.225.030, sometimes referred to as the Becca Bill, requires that school districts file truancy petitions with the Juvenile Court when students (up to the age of 17) have accumulated seven unexcused absences in one month or ten unexcused absences in an academic year. Superior Court supports many responses to truancy including ideas to improve early intervention, technical assistance to all schools and school districts in King County to aid in filing, community truancy board development, resource and referral assistance from case managers, and a formal, court process.
By the 10th unexcused absence in the school year or the 7th unexcused absence in one month, a Truancy petitions must be electronically filed with King County Juvenile Court, mailed, or brought to either Juvenile Court in Seattle or the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, according to the location of the School District. School districts in the south end of the county -- Kent, Federal Way, Renton, Highline, Tahoma, Enumclaw, Auburn, and Tukwila -- file with the Maleng Regional Justice Center. School districts on the eastside and northern part of the county -- Seattle, Shoreline, Northshore, Lake Washington, Bellevue, Issaquah, Vashon, Mercer Island, Skykomish, Riverview, and Snoqualmie Valley -- file with Juvenile Court in Seattle.
Step 1: A case number is assigned, a court file is created, and the petition is reviewed for sufficiency by the Court.
Step 2: A case schedule is generated by the Clerk’s Office, setting a Preliminary Hearing one year from the date of filing. During that year, other interventions will take place, with the goal of re-engagement rather than a court appearance.
Step 3: Once a Petition is filed with the Court, the student and parent(s)/guardian will be invited to an Attendance Workshop run by either the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or the student’s own school district.
If these and/or other interventions, such as a Community Truancy Board, are not successful during the year in re-engaging the student back to school, the school district may ask for an earlier Preliminary Hearing.
Step 1: A preliminary court order is issued setting a hearing date.
Step 2: The preliminary court order is returned to the school district for service to student and parent(s)/guardian.
Step 3: When the hearing is held, the court may assume jurisdiction over the student's attendance and enter an order compelling school attendance.
Step 4: If the student has had proper notice of the hearing and fails to appear, a warrant may be issued, a second hearing may be scheduled, or an order may be entered.
Step 5: If the court believes it relevant to the truancy, the court may additionally order the student to submit to assessments or testing for the use of a controlled substance or alcohol.
The court may set a review hearing at any time on its own initiative to monitor how the parties are complying with the court's order and reducing truancies. A school district may also request a review hearing by filing a progress report with the Clerk's Office.
It is the school district's obligation to inform the court if the student is out of compliance with the court's order compelling school attendance. The school district shall file a motion for a Show Cause Hearing requesting that a contempt hearing be set.
Step 1: The hearing shall be set and legal counsel shall be appointed for the student.
Step 2: The court shall issue an order directing the parties to appear at a contempt hearing. This order shall be sent to the school district for personal service on the student and his/her parent(s)/guardian.
Step 3: The school district is obligated to provide discovery to the student's attorney in a timely manner, at least one week prior to the hearing date.
Step 4: A hearing will be held to determine whether the student demonstrated a willful disregard for the court's order compelling attendance and an order of contempt may be issued.
Step 5: Attorneys are appointed for youth when a contempt hearing is scheduled. There may be a cost to the parents for the attorney. Parents may contact the Office of the Public Defender at (206) 296-7662 for more information. OPD Fee Information.
Step 6: An order of contempt may include coercive measures intended to improve the student's willingness to comply with the original order compelling attendance, including community service, fines, detention, or participation in community-based programs.
Want to Find Out the Status of Your Truancy Case?
Contact the school district in which your child is enrolled and ask for the Truancy or Attendance Secretary. (For contact information, see this list of King County School District Contacts.)
Want to Volunteer on a Community Truancy Board?
Call your local school district to find out whether a community truancy board exists in your community.
RCW 28A.225.025 authorizes the use of community truancy boards as an alternative or supplement to the formal court process. Community truancy boards are operated by school districts with the help of trained community volunteers and provide families with an opportunity to avoid appearing in court on truancy matters. Community truancy boards take advantage of the skills, expertise, and interest in local communities to create agreements between students, parents, and schools that can take the place of a preliminary court hearing. Students, parents, and school representatives each present to the board individually. The board confers on its own and presents its recommendations to the parties. If everyone agrees, an attendance agreement is signed, and the school district monitors attendance. If attendance does not improve, the school district may then request a formal court hearing from Juvenile Court.