Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) understands that school attendance is a protective factor for students, and promotes student engagement, inclusion, and overall well-being. Additionally, investments in teaching and learning are maximized when students attend school on a regular basis. Therefore, PAUSD is committed to efforts that align with California law, including attendance notifications and communication to parents, and to using data to identify at-risk patterns in absenteeism and apply appropriate intervention strategies that build healthy habits around school attendance as early as possible.  Board Policies and Administrative Regulations reflect California law (Ed Code) and are updated periodically to reflect best practices. A collective focus on attendance that includes schools, parents, and the community, contributes to all students being more successful academically, socially, and emotionally.

Compulsory Attendance Laws

School attendance is required by state law, called Education Code (Ed Code). Ed Code section 48200 requires that every child 6 to 18 years old must attend school every day and on time, unless there is an acceptable reason (defined by Ed Code) for the absence.  Acceptable reasons for excused absences include, but are not limited to, illness, medical appointments, and attendance at family funeral services. Attendance at religious retreats can not exceed four (4) hours per school semester.  Unexcused absences include non-bereavement travel (such as for pleasure, business, visa renewal, etc.), attending sporting events or concerts, visiting other schools (exception: 12th graders visiting colleges), babysitting, accompanying parents/older siblings on travel, and more. Parents/guardians are responsible for their child's school attendance and must notify the school when their child is not in school and include the reason, regardless of whether it is excused or unexcused.

Attendance Codes – Excused Absences
Administrator DecisionADAR 5113 (7);
EC 48205;
EC 48260 (c)
  • Active military duty spending time with a member of student's immediate family (parents/guardians, grandparents, spouse, son/son-in law, daughter/daughter-in-law, brother/sister, or any relative living in the student's immediate household) who is an active duty member of the uniformed services who has been called for duty, is on leave from, has immediately returned from, deployment to a combat zone or combat support position; maximum 3 days
  • Jury duty
  • Medical appointment for child whom the student is the custodial parent
  • Purpose of serving as a member of a precinct board for an election pursuant
  • Student's naturalization ceremony to become a US citizen
Use of these codes requires approval, by school administrator, of request provided by family and/or student
  • Court appearance
  • Observance of a holiday or ceremony or religious retreat (generally, one time events) of a student's religion; not to exceed 4 hrs per semester
  • Attendance at an employment conference
  • Attendance at an educational conference on the legislative/judicial process offered by a nonprofit organization
  • Off-campus college visit; only seniors, and 2nd semester juniors, are eligible
ReligiousRELEC 46014
AR 5113 (10)
  • To participate in religious exercises or to receive moral and religious instruction away from school (generally ongoing)
  • Not to exceed 4 days per school month
BereavementBVEC 48205 (4);
  • Attendance at funeral service for a member of the immediate family (limited to 1 day in CA or 3 days if out-of-state). Immediate family includes parents/guardians, grandparents, spouse, son/son-in law, daughter/daughter-in-law, brother/sister, or any relative living in the student's immediate household
Entertainment Industry Work PermitEIPEC 48225.5
  • Limited to up to five consecutive days per school year
HealthHEAEC 48205 (1),
AR 5113
  • Due to the student's illness, or for health appointments (medical, dental, optometrical, mental health, chiropractic)
  • Note from medical professional is preferred, but not required for up to 5 consecutive health absences; if note is provided, use HMP
  • Upon 6 or more consecutive days absence, note from medical professional is required and code HMP used
Health Verified by Medical ProfessionalHMPAR 5113.1
  • Use any time a medical note provided by medical professional, regardless of days absent
  • Health absences 6 consecutive days or more require note from a medical professional; if note is not provided, absences days 6 and beyond are marked unexcused (UAB)
  • Absence cleared by a District Nurse
  • Due to quarantine under the direction of a county or city health officer
Attendance Codes – Present
College VisitCV 
  • Only use when participating in a college presentation held in a PAUSD school
Field TripFTEC 35330(c)(1),(2)
BP 6153
  • When attending a school sponsored field trip
  • Shall not exceed 10 school days except when in connection with courses of instruction/school-related educational activity and are not social, cultural, athletic or school band activities
Mandated TestingMT 
  • District or school testing (AP, EL, other placement tests)
Removal from ClassRFCEC 48910; OCR
  • Student is removed from class at any point
Suspension In-schoolSSCALPADS
  • Suspension served in school
Verified PresentVP 
  • Only used to correct an absence incorrectly recorded by the teacher
With AdministratorWA 
  • With administrator
With Health OfficeWHO 
  • Health office excused absence
With Other TeacherWOT 
  • With another credentialed teacher
With Support StaffWSS 
  • With counselor, social worker, wellness staff, psychologist, speech pathologist, coach, instructional aide, etc
Attendance Codes – Tardy
Excused Tardy less than 30 minutesETEC 48200
  • Tardy less than 30 minutes with valid excuse
Excused Tardy greater than/equal to 30 minutesEWTEC 48260 (a)
  • Excused tardy greater than 30 minutes
Attendance Codes – Unexcused Absences
  • Student has missed school without parent permission
ImmunizationIZEC 48216
AR 5141.31
  • Any pupil who is not permitted to attend due to immunization non-compliance
Left EarlyLEEC 48200
EC 48260 (a)
  • Student leaves early for any unexcused reason; provide time and reason 
  • Elementary schools only
  • Vacation, traveling with parents/ guardians, visa delay
Unexcused AbsenceUABEC 48200
EC 48260 (a)
  • Absent without approved excuse
Unexcused Tardy greater than/equal to 30 minutesUWTEC 48200
EC 48260 (a)
  • Unexcused tardy greater than 30 minutes. Elementary only
Attendance Codes – Unexcused Tardy
Unexcused Tardy less than 30 minutesUTEC 48200
EC 48260 (a)
  • Unexcused tardy less than 30 minutes (medical reason does not apply)
Attendance Codes – Suspension
Susp OutSUSEC 48205 (a)(11); (b), EC 48900,
  • Suspension served out of school
  • Counts towards Chronic Absenteeism, not truancy

Ed Code states that a student is truant if that student:

  • Is absent from school without an Ed Code-valid excuse three full days in one school year; or
  • Is tardy or absent for more than a 30-minute period during the school day without an Ed Code-valid excuse on three occasions in one school year;

or any combination thereof. (Ed Code, 48260(a))

Ed Code requires public schools to send parents notifications of truancy in writing; PAUSD send notifications when a student accumulates 3, 6 and 10 unexecused absences, or accumulates 30 minutes or more of missed instruction, or any combination thereof.  This notification is meant to promote communication between the home and the school.  Parents are always encouraged to contact the school site when questions of school attendance arise.

Chronic Absenteeism

A "chronic absentee" is defined in Ed Code section 60901(c)(1) as "a pupil who is absent on 10 percent or more of the school days in the school year when the total number of days a pupil is absent is divided by the total number of days the pupil is enrolled and school was actually taught in the regular day schools of the district, exclusive of Saturdays and Sundays." PAUSD sends letters to parents as needed throughout the year.

Student Attendance Review Board (SARB)

Schools work closely with families whenever  a student is experiencing attendance problems. If the problem cannot be resolved by school staff, the school may refer the student and family to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB). The purpose of the SARB is to provide “intensive guidance and coordinated community services” to “meet the special needs of pupils with school attendance problems.” (Ed. Code, 48320, subd. (a)). While the intent of the SARB is to provide families with intentional support services, a SARB also has the power to refer recalcitrant students and their parents to the county District Attorney. Such referrals are made to help families understand and meet the requirements of California's compulsory education laws.  

SARB flyers available English, Spanish and Chinese.

Attendance FAQ

Why is PAUSD making attendance a primary focus?

Regular attendance is vital to a student’s success in school. A growing body of research is revealing the prevalence of chronic absenteeism and its critical role in student achievement. Fortunately, research is also showing that chronic absenteeism can be addressed when schools, communities, and policymakers work together to monitor the problem and implement solutions that address the underlying causes. 

PAUSD, like all public schools operating under the laws of the State of California, is interested in the education and well-being of your child.  Attendance metrics drive several Key Strategies of the PAUSD Promise in the areas of Equity & Access and Wellness & Safety. Please refer to the PAUSD Promise website for details.

What are some findings of the research on the benefits of regular attendance?

  1. Absenteeism and its ill effects start early:
    • Absenteeism in the first month of school can predict poor attendance for the school year.
    • Half the students who miss 2-4 days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school.
  2. Research shows that missing 10 percent of the school, or about 18 days in a school year, negatively affects a student’s academic performance:
    • Poor attendance can affect students' reading proficiency as early as the end of third grade. Reading proficiency can affect learning in other subjects, and could result in the child being held back a grade.
    • By 6th grade, chronic absence is a leading indicator of whether a student will drop out of high school.
    • When students improve their attendance rates, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.
  3. Attendance improves when schools engage students and parents in positive ways.

My child is sick, should I send them to school?

For the safety and protection of all, students should not attend school with any of the symptoms listed below. If a student is at school with these symptoms, the parent/guardian will be called to pick up the student.

  • Productive cough and yellow or green nasal discharge
  • Fever of 100 degrees or higher. Students who have been ill with a fever need to be fever-free, without the use of medication, for 24 hours before returning to school
  • Eyes that are red, swollen, crusting, or draining
  • Untreated, draining ears or earache
  • Diarrhea or vomiting. Keep student home for 24 hours before returning to school
  • Severe nausea
  • Severe sore throat
  • Head lice
  • Childhood communicable disease - contact the district nurse (email:

When do I need a doctor’s note to excuse extended health related absences?

A note from a licensed medical provider or physician is required in order to excuse the following health absence circumstances:

  • When a student has had 5 consecutive days of health absences;
  • Cases of chronic absenteeism, where the student is absent the equivalent of 10% or more the school year for health reasons.

Under certain circumstances, parents may be asked to consult a physician and to provide a written note from a doctor indicating that the student is no longer contagious and may return to school.

What do I do if my child is absent from school?

Prior to your child’s absence, call the main office (not the teachers) of your child’s school, and provide your name, the child’s name, absence time(s)/date(s), and reason for the absence. If you do not call prior to the absence, the school will notify you of your child’s absence through a phone call to the primary phone number of every household.

Parents have up to three (3) days after the absence to provide a reason to the school. After 3 days, no changes can be made to the student’s attendance record and unknown absences will be marked unexcused.

How are absences categorized as excused or unexcused?

Parents are not able to decide if an absence is excused or unexcused; parents provide the notification and the reason, and the decision of whether the absence is excused, or unexcused, is determined by California Ed Code. Ed Code’s strict and limited definitions of excused absences are listed below; any reason that is not on this list is unexcused. Note: absences are tracked both for full-day absences and tardies (more than 30 minutes late or leaving early). 

Under California Education Code section 48205, a pupil shall be excused from school if the absence is:

(1) Due to the pupil’s illness.

(2) Due to quarantine under the direction of a county or city health officer.

(3) For the purpose of having medical, dental, optometrical, or chiropractic services rendered.

(4) For the purpose of attending the funeral services of a member of the pupil’s immediate family, so long as the absence is not more than one day if the service is conducted in California and not more than three days if the service is conducted outside California.

(5) For the purpose of jury duty in the manner provided for by law.

(6) Due to the illness or medical appointment during school hours of a child for whom the student is the custodial parent, including absences to care for a sick child (for which the school shall not require a note from a doctor).

(7) For justifiable personal reasons, including, but not limited to, an appearance in court, attendance at a funeral service, observance of a holiday or ceremony of the pupil’s religion, attendance at religious retreats, attendance at an employment conference, or attendance at an educational conference on the legislative or judicial process offered by a nonprofit organization, when the pupil’s absence is requested in writing by the parent or guardian and approved by the principal or a designated representative pursuant to uniform standards established by the governing board.

(8) For the purpose of serving as a member of a precinct board for an election pursuant to Section 12302 of the Elections Code.

(9) For the purpose of spending time with a member of the pupil’s immediate family who is an active duty member of the uniformed services, as defined in Section 49701, and has been called to duty for, is on leave from, or has immediately returned from deployment to a combat zone or combat support position. Absences granted pursuant to this paragraph shall be granted for a period of time to be determined at the discretion of the superintendent of the school district.

(10) For the purpose of attending the pupil’s naturalization ceremony to become a United States citizen.

(11) Authorized at the discretion of a school administrator, as described in subdivision (c) of Section 48260.

* For purposes of this section, attendance at religious retreats shall not exceed four hours per semester.

*“Immediate family,” as used in this section, means the parent or guardian, brother or sister, grandparent, or any other relative living in the household of the pupil.

What happens if my child’s absence is defined as excused?

Students are given the opportunity to make up schoolwork missed due to an excused absence. Please work with your school directly to make arrangements for make-up work. 

What happens if my child’s absence is defined as unexcused?

Schools are not required to provide an opportunity to make up schoolwork missed. Examples of unexcused absences include travel for any reason not defined as excused by Ed Code; vacation, parents’ business trips, travel for visa renewal purposes, etc. are not excused per Ed Code.

What should I do if my child needs to be out of school for a length of time?

Please inform the school of the details to determine what arrangements can be made particularly for health problems. In general, students who will miss 15 consecutive days or more of school because they are out of the area, will be disenrolled. Parents may re-enroll the student when the student returns to the area.

Why did I get a letter from the School District notifying me of an attendance problem?

Letters are sent to let the parent know of the consequences of absences to your student’s education, and to offer a partnership between your family and the school to address any barriers to your student regularly attending school. Not only is it a good idea for students to attend school, it is the law: California has compulsory education and attendance laws found in the California Education Code (“Ed Code”) that require each person between the ages of 6 and 18 to attend school for the full-time length of the school day. Ed Code also requires public schools to track student attendance and notify parents at certain absence thresholds, called Truancy and Chronic Absence.

Ed Code directs schools to track the number of absences for each of their students, and to notify parents at these thresholds:

  • Truancy: Ed Code defines a student as a truant, and requires the school to notify the parent, when the student has three (3) unexcused absences for a) three full days in one school year; or b) for more than a 30-minute period during the school day or c) any combination of a or b. After sending this first letter, PAUSD sends a second letter after six (6) unexcused absences, and a third letter after ten (10) unexcused absences.
  • Chronic Absence: Ed Code defines this as a student who is absent (both excused and unexcused) on 10 percent or more of the school days in which the pupil is enrolled. PAUSD sends these letters at the midpoint of a term (elementary schools) or a quarter (secondary schools).

What should I do if I receive an attendance letter for my child?

Parents are encouraged to follow the suggestions and/or instructions contained in the letter. Excessive absences are frequently an indicator of other problems. If your student is frequently absent, or is refusing to go to school, please contact your school for support; the school will partner with you and provide strategies and available resources to address the problem. In particularly difficult cases, the school may enlist the district nurse, social worker, or a referral to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB) to deliver interventions to assist families in re-engaging the student to return to school.


Parents who have questions about school attendance, or need support getting their child to school, are encouraged to contact the student's school for assistance. Below are tips and strategies for parents that may assist with improving school attendance.