Maryland law requires all children between the ages of 5 and 16 who live in this state and attend public schools to attend school regularly unless excused with a lawful absence. Beginning on July 1, 2015, the rules will require attendance until age 17. On July 1, 2017, the period of applicability will extend to age 18. There are limited exceptions to the general attendance rule. For example, it does not apply to a child who has received a Maryland high school diploma, or an equivalent degree at an out-of-state institution, or who has received a GED. Read the Law: Md Code Education §7–301
Generally, public schools in Maryland must be open for 180 days per year, and for a minimum of 1,080 school hours. Read the Law: Md Code Education §7–103
A truant student is one who is unlawfully absent for school for more than:
- 8 days in any quarter,
- 15 days in any semester, or
- 20 days in a school year.
Read the Law: Md Code Education §7–302.2
Legal consequences can occur when a student is unlawfully truant from school for any number or portion of days exceeding 20% of the school days within a marking period. The person with legal custody or responsibility for the care and control of a child between the ages of 5 and 16 may be subject to criminal conviction and/or a fine for excessive unexcused absences.
What are some reasons that a student may be lawfully absent?
- Death in the immediate family;
- Illness, with a physician’s certificate, if the student is continuously absent based on illness;
- Work obligations that are approved or sponsored by the school, the local school system or the State Department of Education;
- State emergency;
- Court summons;
- Hazardous weather conditions;
- Observance of a religious holiday; or
- Lack of authorized transportation for the student.
Each school district decides which relationships count as “immediate family” to allow a lawful absence. There may also be other emergencies or circumstances which a school official determines to count as a “good and sufficient cause for absence from school.” This determination rests with the judgment of the superintendent.
Any absence for all or any portion of the day for any reason other than those designated as lawful absences are presumed to be unlawful. Each individual school district may include specific criteria for unlawful absences to be included in the attendance policies approved by local school boards. COMAR §13A.08.01.04.
Many factors affect or cause truancy, and the evidence shows that truancy causes negative outcomes for students. Read the report.
Certain jurisdictions within Maryland have established truancy reduction courts to assist with reducing truancy and keeping Maryland students in school.