The Washington State Institute for Public Policy was directed by the legislature to study implementation of the truancy laws in school districts and courts in the state. In this report, we focus on school district petition filing rates, factors that predict district filing rates, reasons for not filing petitions, the contempt process, and district costs for the court process. The findings are based on a statewide survey of school districts, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) data, and analysis of court records.
The data reveal that, statewide, districts file truancy petitions for 32 percent of students who are legally eligible based on repeated unexcused absences. However, rates of filing vary widely among districts. Higher filing rates are predicted by smaller district size, lower percentage of minority students in the district, and a willingness on the part of the district to file a petition prior to the legal requirement. Statewide district costs for the truancy court process were estimated at $2.7 million annually. This figure is 1.5 times the $1.8 million allocated by the state in the 2007-08 school year.