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 petition must be either electronically filed with King County Juvenile Court or mailed or brought into the Juvenile Court in Seattle or the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, depending on the location of the School District. School districts in the south end of the county -- Auburn, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Tahoma, and Tukwila -- file with the Maleng Regional Justice Center. School districts on the east side and northern part of the county -- Bellevue, Issaquah, Lake Washington, Mercer Island, Northshore, Riverview, Seattle, Shoreline, Skykomish, Snoqualmie Valley, and Vashon -- 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 also may 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.
- 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.
- Be on time for your hearing.
- Upon arrival, sign-in and have a seat in the waiting area.
- Be familiar with your papers. You may use written notes and may take notes during the hearing.
- Listen for your case to be called over the loudspeaker. You will be called to report to a designated courtroom.
- No food, drinks nor gum chewing are permitted in the courtroom. Turn off cell phones and pagers during your hearing.
- Although these are open hearings, you may ask the court to identify parties in the courtroom that you do not know. You may object to the presence of any individual who is not a party to the action by asking that the court exclude that individual from the courtroom. The court may in its discretion ask that person to leave or allow the person to remain.
When testifying before the Court:
- Be respectful and courteous with the Court.
- Always address the Judge/Commissioner as "Your Honor."
- Do not interrupt.
- If something needs to be clarified, wait until it is your turn to speak or politely ask to speak again.
- Do not speak until the Judge/Commissioner asks you to speak.
- When speaking the Judge/Commissioner, keep your head up and maintain eye contact. Keep your hands away from your mouth and speak loudly.
- Stick to the facts.
- Describe incidents clearly and concisely.
Contact the school district in which your child is enrolled and ask for the Truancy or Attendance Secretary. (Find contact information for your school district in this list of school district truancy contacts.)
Call your school district truancy contact to learn whether a Community Truancy Board exists in your community.
About 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. They 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.
King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office
Stephanie Sato, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
King County Clerk's Office (for filing Truancy matters)
1211 East Alder Street, Room 307
Seattle, WA 98122
Regional Justice Center
401 Fourth Avenue N, Room 2C
Kent, WA 98032