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Juvenile Court

Juvenile Court Department of the King County Superior Court

Truancy

About Truancy
Overview of Court Process
Community Truancy Boards

Contacts for Further Information

Truancy Forms

About Truancy

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.

Overview of Court Process

Filing

A truancy petition may be filed with the Regional Justice Center in Kent or with the Juvenile Court in Seattle depending on the school district's location.  School districts in the south end of the county -- Kent, Federal Way, Renton, Highline, Tahoma, Enumclaw, Auburn, and Tukwila -- file with the Regional Justice Center.  School districts in the eastside and in the 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:  The court grants a stay to allow the school district time to have families appear at an attendance workshop, Community Truancy Board, or other school-based intervention, or returns the petition if it is insufficient.
Step 3:  If a hearing is requested, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will review the petition before the court sets a hearing.

Preliminary Hearings

Step 1:  A preliminary court order is issued setting a hearing date and assigning an attorney for the youth.
Step 2:  The preliminary court order is returned to the school district for service to student and parent(s)/guardian.
Step 3:  If a 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 testing for the use of a controlled substance or alcohol.

Review Hearings

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.

Contempt Hearings

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, visit the King County School District Contacts webpage.)

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.

Community Truancy Boards

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.