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Attorney Logo School Attendance Laws


Why Attendance Matters | School Attendance Laws | What Parents Can Do | Truancy Intervention Project | Family Truancy Intervention | Referral Procedures | Referral Forms | Contact Us

teacher student study groupCompulsory School Attendance Law

The law states that all children between the ages 7 - 18, and ages 5 and 6 if they are enrolled, must attend school every day on time unless lawfully excused by the school.

What is a legal excuse to miss school?

Excused absences:

  • Illness:  A parent or guardian must verify the student's illness.  If school personnel determine the illness absences are excessive, Minnesota law permits the school to require the family to provide medical verification or to see the school nurse. 
  • Religious observances required by the student's religion.
  • Extreme family emergency (e.g. house fire, critical injury to parent/guardian, funeral of a close family member).
  • Medical appointments that cannot be scheduled outside of school hours.
  • Prior approval by the school principal is required for absences due to travel.

Under Minnesota law, school administration has the right to determine the validity of any request for an excused absence.

Educational Neglect Versus Truancy

If a child is under age 12, his or her failure to attend school is presumed to be the crime of educational neglect committed by the child's parents/guardians.  If the child is age 12 or older, his or her failure to attend school is presumed to be truancy.  The presumption of whether a child's absence from school is deemed educational neglect or truancy can be overcome with evidence to the contrary

Educational Neglect Laws (Ages 5 - 11)

Educational neglect is a parent or guardian's failure to ensure the child attends school as required by law.

Presumption - A child's absence from school is presumed to be due to the parent's, guardian's, or custodian's failure to comply with compulsory instruction laws if the child is under 12 years old and the school has made appropriate efforts to resolve the child's attendance problems, according to MN Statute 260C.163 Subd. 11(a)

Child in Need of Protection - MN Statute 260C.007 Subd. 6(3) defines a child in need of protection or services as a child who is without necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, or other required care for the child's physical or mental health or morals because the child's parent/guardian is unable or unwilling to provide that care.

Neglect - MN Statute 626.556 Subd.2 (f)(4) provides that neglect is the failure to ensure that the child is educated as defined in MN Statute 120A.22 and MN Statute 260C.163 Subd. 11.

Truancy Laws (Ages 12 +)

Truancy is a child's willful absence without lawful excuse from one or more class periods on seven different school days.

Continuing Truant - MN Statute 260A.02 provides that a continuing truant is a student who is subject to the compulsory instruction requirements of MN Statute 120A.22 and is absent from instruction without valid excuse within a single school year for:

  • Three days if the child is in an elementary school; or
  • Three or more class periods on three days if the child is in middle school, junior high school, or high school; or
  • When a student is classified as a continuing truant, the school may notify the student’s parent or legal guardian that the child is considered truant and inform the parents of the provisions of Minn. Stat 260A, 260C, and 120A regarding truant students.  The school may also refer a continuing truant to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office Truancy Intervention Program.

Habitual Truant - MN Statute 260C.007 defines an habitual truant as:

  • A child under the age of 16 years who is absent from attendance at school without lawful excuse for seven school days if the child is in elementary school or for one or more class periods on seven school days if the child is in middle school, junior high school, or high school; or
  • A child who is 16 or 17 years of age who is absent from attendance at school without lawful excuse for one or more class periods on seven school days and who has not lawfully withdrawn from school.

The district shall refer an habitual truant child and the child’s parents or legal guardian to appropriate services and procedures, under MN Statute 260A.

Suspensions and Dismissals

  • “Dismissal” means the denial of the current educational program to any student.  
  • “Suspension” means an action by the school administration, under rules promulgated by the school board, prohibiting a pupil from attending school for a period of no more than ten school days.