Mayor's office prepares sweeping reforms to tackle truancy crisis in DC schools

Reports indicate that 60% of high school students in D.C. are chronically absent, missing at least 10% of instructional days within a school year.

The 47% truancy rate is alarming to District leaders, with nearly half of high schoolers accumulating 10 unexcused absences during the academic year.

To address these concerning statistics, several D.C. council members, including Robert White, Charles Allen, and Zachary Parker, are proposing legislation.

Councilmember Parker of Ward 5 recently unveiled the "Showing Up for Students Amendment Act," focusing on early intervention and collaboration with partner agencies like the Department of Human Services (DHS) to address what he describes as a "broken" system.

Parker emphasized the need for interventions such as caseworkers, mental health therapy, and financial assistance to support families and ensure students' attendance, citing data indicating these factors hinder school attendance.


DC Policy Center identifies alarming trends in student attendance

D.C. schools are facing an attendance crisis – an issue some link directly to juvenile crime rates.

Despite high school attendance being a primary concern, the overall district sees 43% of students chronically absent.

Education reform advocate Jessica Giles expressed support for the council's scrutiny of truancy in the District but emphasized the importance of multifaceted solutions, including early intervention, safe passage efforts, and better coordination between schools and attendance-related agencies.

"It’s really important that we do a few things correctly," Giles said. "We have to make sure we have early intervention and support for students when we see them beginning to miss days. We also have to make sure that our students are getting to school and home safely. So, we have to expand safe passage efforts. We also have to make sure there is better collaboration and coordination between schools and the agencies responsible for school attendance."

While details of the mayor's forthcoming legislation remain undisclosed, it is expected to address parental accountability, a key aspect under D.C. law where parents, guardians, and legal custodians are obligated to ensure student attendance, with potential legal repercussions for noncompliance. 

The council members stressed that they aren't looking to prosecute parents, they just want to reduce truancy.