Truancy is any intentional unauthorized or illegal absence from compulsory education. It is absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate “excused” absences, such as ones related to medical conditions. Truancy is usually explicitly defined in the school’s handbook of policies and procedures. In some schools, truancy may result in not being able to graduate or to receive credit for class attended, until the time lost to truancy is made up through a combination of detention, fines, or summer school.

Truancy is a frequent subject of popular culture; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is about the title character’s (played by Matthew Broderick) day of truancy in Chicago with his girlfriend and best friend. Truancy is also the title of a 2008 novel about a student uprising against a dictatorial educational system.


What is Truancy?

The definition of truancy is usually established by school district policy and may vary across districts.  Definitions for an excused absence, an unexcused absence, or a truancy can vary by state and even school districts.

Any unexcused absence from school is considered a truancy, but states enact their own school attendance laws. State law determines 1) the age at which a child is required to begin attending school, 2) the age at which a child may legally drop out of school, and 3), the number of unexcused absences at which a student is considered legally truant.

Truancy is a status offense – an act that is a crime due to the young age of the actor, but would not be illegal for someone older. The other most common status offenses are running away from home, alcohol use, curfew violations, and ungovernability.

Truancy:  An Overview of the Problem

Generally, absentee rates are highest in public schools in the inner-city where larger numbers of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches source: (Heaviside et al., 1998). (Higher truancy rates generally correlate with poverty; higher rates of free and reduced-price lunches are typically used as evidence of poverty.)

Consequences of Truancy

  • Dropping out of school. Students who are chronically truant typically fall behind in grade level and drop out of school.
    • Delinquency. Students who are chronically truant are also at-risk for other behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and delinquency.
  • Negative effect upon other students. Students who are chronically truant require extra time from teachers; teachers have less time to spend with the regularly-attending students in the classroom when they must create make-up work for truants.

Causes of Truancy

What influences truancy? In early research, depending upon the perspective of the researcher, truancy was said to be caused by the student, the student’s family, or the school. More recently, it is understood that a combination of all three factors usually affect truancy:

Characteristics of the Student:

  • low grades in reading and mathematics
    • neurological factors, such as dyslexia
    • inability to make friends with mainstream students or teachers
    • negative attitudes toward school or teachers

Characteristics of the Student’s Family:
• parent(s) who do not value education
• parent(s) who did not complete school, were truant themselves
• poor parenting skills
• low socio-economic status
• physical or mental health problems of parents
• family history of delinquency
• single parent families
• many children in the family

Characteristics of the School:
• weak or no monitoring of daily attendance
• inconsistent attendance policies
• lack of parent involvement in the school
• lack of personalized attention to students
• lack of teacher expectations for high student achievement


Controlling truancy administratively in schools in order to encourage academic excellence is not that easy, but as an administrator, you must start somewhere. Give the students a motivation for coming to school. The suggestion is simple but the implementation is not. The only things that kept me going through high school were my friends and a few amazing teachers. Students need more than that. They need to feel safe and comfortable. They need to feel as free as possible but they also need to be disciplined and need to know that their punishment is serious and not something to be ignored.

School is so much more than an education, it’s a community. Or at least, it should be. If a student feels like they can speak to their principal as well as some of their teachers privately about something important, then they’re in the right place.

If, in school, the student finds no base of support from the faculty and even worse, has very few or no close friends at all, then they certainly won’t come to school.  If they feel that each essay they turn in is just regarded as fodder or won’t be assessed accurately, then they will have no motivation to turn in their work, which builds on them not attending school at all. The student should learn how to be proud of their individual and communal contributions. In life, often when we do not see the direct effects of our work, we care very little, hence the destruction of the environment. The same concept applies to schooling.

These are not things easily accomplished but effort certainly should be put into to build the school up as a community. According to my own experience, I believe this would boost attendance.











Truancy poses a se4ious threat to learning in most schools, the school on the other hand, do not seem to be able to cope with the problem,. Because no sufficient attempts has been made to reach its root. One thing that is clear in this issue. There is a growing tendency for schools children to be involved in social vices, such as stealing, smoking etc. this is because most home no longer play their traditional function to rear and bring up the child in an upright manner. This is because many parents are sop preoccupied with duties (working, travelling) outside the homes that they have little or no time to keep watch over the action and behaviour of their children.

In most of their schools, there is no conducive atmosphere for learning. This is due to the fact that schools are highly populated, poorly equipped and under staffed. Since students cannot cope with their unfavourable conditions, which these schools are placed, this eventually leads to truancy and other social vices found in our society today. Broken home can also be attributed to the cause of truancy because children from a single parent need to be more exposed to the danger of the society, for example a single parent child will leave the mothers house and say he or she is going to the father house thereby using the opportunity to go and stay in her boyfriends house for the boys, they so and join bad peer group without the mother and father knowing, because they would think she is in the father house and vise visa.


“Home-school mom charged with allowing truancy”. 25 April 2005. Retrieved 29 January 2011.


Det virker at inddrage børnechecken (It works confiscating the child benefit check), by Anette Sørensen, Denmarks Radio, October 25, 2008


elever er ikke mødt op (155 children have not started), by Majken Klintø,, August 26, 2008


Børn pjækker mere fra skole, DR News, April 30, 2009

“Äidille sakkoja lasten oppivelvollisuuden laiminlyömisestä – – Kotimaa” (in Finnish). Retrieved 1 February 2011.




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