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Washington State has compulsory school attendance laws, which mandate how schools and courts respond to unexcused absences. The 2016 Washington State Legislature passed legislation that changed some truancy-related requirements and directed WSIPP to evaluate the effectiveness of the act. The legislation requires that students who receive a truancy petition are first diverted to a community truancy board for intervention before moving forward with hearings in a juvenile court. The new law also increased the prevention requirements of schools and made it more difficult for juvenile courts to order youth to detention in cases of truancy.
WSIPP found that access to community truancy boards increased following the law’s passage, although the interventions that youth receive vary significantly across the state. Schools continue to file truancy petitions at a low rate; less than a quarter of students who are required to receive a petition actually do so. We found no clear relationship between the legislation and student outcomes, i.e., reduced unexcused absences and dropout rates. However, the dropout rate for truant youth (both with and without a petition) slightly declined after the law was implemented. The percentage of youth being sent to juvenile detention for truancy also fell, although that decrease began prior to when the law was implemented.