Code of the District of Columbia

Part B. Compulsory School Attendance.


§ 38–202. Establishment of school attendance requirements.

(a) Every parent, guardian, or other person, who resides permanently or temporarily in the District during any school year and who has custody or control of a minor who has reached the age of 5 years or will become 5 years of age on or before September 30th of the current school year shall place the minor in regular attendance in an educational institution during the period of each year when the public schools of the District are in session. This obligation of the parent, guardian, or other person having custody extends until the minor reaches the age of 18 years. For the purpose of this section placement in summer school is not required.

(b) Any minor who has satisfactorily completed the senior high school course of study prescribed by the Board and has been granted a diploma that certifies his or her graduation from high school, or who holds a diploma or certificate of graduation from another course of study determined by the Board to be at least equivalent to that required by the Board for graduation from the public senior high schools, shall be excused from further attendance at school.

(c) Any minor who has reached the age of 17 years may be allowed flexible school hours by the head of the educational institution in which the minor is enrolled provided he or she is actually, lawfully, gainfully, and regularly employed, but in no case shall he or she be excused entirely from regular attendance or excused to the extent that his or her timely graduation would be jeopardized or prevented.

(d) The Board shall, pursuant to subchapter I of Chapter 5 of Title 2, issue rules to establish requirements to govern acceptable credit for studies completed at independent or private schools and private instruction, to govern the selection and appointment of appropriate staff members to carry out the provisions of this chapter under the direction of the Superintendent of Schools, pursuant to Chapter 6 of Title 1, and in respect to other matters within the scope of authority of the Board that relates to this subchapter.


(Feb. 4, 1925, 43 Stat. 806, ch. 140, Art. I, §§ 1, 2; renumbered as Art. II, § 1 and amended, Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-247, § 2(a), 38 DCR 376; July 18, 2008, D.C. Law 17-202, § 604, 55 DCR 6297; Sept. 19, 2013, D.C. Law 20-17, § 303(a), 60 DCR 9839; July 26, 2016, D.C. Law 21-140, § 2(b), 63 DCR 8207.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-402.

1973 Ed., §§ 31-201, 31-202.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 2-1571, § 16-2309, § 38-203, § 38-206, § 38-1800.02, and § 38-2605.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-202, in subsec. (a), substituted “September 30th” for “December 31st”.

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 20-17 substituted “an educational institution” for “a public, independent, private, or parochial school, or in private instruction” in (a).

Cross References

Additional powers and duties of Superintendent, see § 38-105.

Belief that child is of compulsory school age, taking into custody, see § 16-2309.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of School Attendance Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-476, July 21, 2016, 63 DCR 10181).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(b) of School Attendance Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-410, June 1, 2016, 63 DCR 8202).

For temporary (90 day) addition, see § 2 of Class Exclusion Standards Emergency Amendment Act of 2007 (D.C. Act 17-23, March

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 303(a) of the Attendance Accountability Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-133, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11531, 20 DCSTAT 1973).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2 of D.C. Law 17-8 added provisions to read as follows:

“Sec. 1a. Establishment of standards for class exclusions and suspensions.

“(a) The Board of Education (‘Board’) shall adopt uniform disciplinary standards:

“(1) To determine when class exclusions will be the appropriate disciplinary measure for students;

“(2) To promote the education of students in the school, except for those students who may be a danger to the school’s faculty, students, or others, where the student was placed prior to disciplinary action, and that prioritize consideration of the student’s academic standing, the educational needs of the students, and the number of previous offenses.

“(b) The standards adopted under subsection (a) of this section shall include a progressive schedule of discipline which promotes the goal of in-class education for students subject to disciplinary action, beginning with in-class intervention strategies and ending with expulsion as the final and most extreme form of discipline, and to the extent consistent with this progressive schedule, it shall be the policy of the District of Columbia to prefer in-school disciplinary action, except for those students who may be a danger to the school’s faculty, students, or others.

“(c) The Board shall require a monthly report of disciplinary measures taken by each school regarding class exclusions and suspensions, including the rationale for the particular choice of discipline.

“(d) The Mayor shall provide for comprehensive inter-agency collaborative support programs, such as programs offered by the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Human Services, the Child and Family Services Agency, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, to assist the student subject to class exclusion at the school, except for those students who may be a danger to the school’s faculty, students, or others, where the student was placed prior to the disciplinary action.

“(e) The Mayor shall make resources available to support the programs in subsection (d) of this section within the context of appropriated funds within the budget and financial plan.”

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 17-8 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.


§ 38–203. Enforcement; penalties.

(a) An accurate daily record of the attendance of all minors covered by § 38-202 and this section shall be kept by the teachers of each educational institution. These records shall be open for inspection at all times by the Board, the State Superintendent of Education, school attendance officers, or other persons authorized to enforce this subchapter.

(b) Repealed.

(c)(1) The absence of a minor covered by § 38-202(a) without valid excuse shall be unlawful.

(2) An absence of a minor covered by § 38-202(a) who is enrolled in a public school is deemed unexcused unless the minor's parent, guardian, or other person who has custody or control of the minor provides the school with a valid excuse for the minor's absence within 5 school days upon the minor's return to school.

(d) The parent, guardian, or other person who has custody or control of a minor covered by § 38-202(a) who is absent from school without a valid excuse shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(e) Any person convicted of failure to keep a minor in regular attendance in a public, independent, private, or parochial school, or failure to provide regular private instruction acceptable to the Board may be fined not less than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 5 days, or both for each offense.

(f) Each unlawful absence of a minor for 2 full-day sessions or for 4 half-day sessions during a school month shall constitute a separate offense.

(f-1) Repealed.

(f-2) Repealed.

(g) For the 1st offense, upon payment of costs, the sentence may be suspended and the defendant may be placed on probation.

(h) For any person convicted under this section, the courts shall consider requiring the offender to perform community service as an alternative to fine or imprisonment or both.

(i) Within 60 days after the end of a school year, each public, independent, private, or parochial school shall report to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and make publicly available the following data for each school or campus under its authority based on the preceding school year:

(A) The number of minors, categorized by grade, or equivalent grouping for ungraded schools, who had unexcused absences for:

(i) One to 5 days;

(ii) Six to 10 days;

(iii) Eleven to 20 days; and

(iv) Twenty-one or more days;

(A-i) The work of the school-based student support teams in reducing unexcused absences, including:

(i) The number of students who were referred to a school-based student support team;

(ii) The number of students who met with a school-based student support team;

(iii) A summary of the action plans and strategies implemented by the school-based student support team to eliminate or ameliorate unexcused absences; and

(iv) A summary of the services utilized by students to reduce unexcused absences;

(v) A summary of the common barriers to implementing the recommendations of the school-based student support team;

(B) The number of minors, categorized by grade, or equivalent grouping for ungraded schools, that the school reported to the Child and Family Services Agency pursuant to § 4-1321.02(a-1) and (a-2);

(B-i) The number of minors categorized by grade, or equivalent grouping for ungraded schools, that the school referred to the Court Social Services Division of the Family Court of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for truancy; and

(C) The policy on absences, including defined categories of valid excuses, that it used.

(j) By August 1, 2012, the Mayor shall develop, through rulemaking, appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure that each school, principal, and teacher is in full compliance with the requirements of this subchapter and any regulations issued pursuant to this subchapter.

(k) By November 30 of each year, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education shall publicly report on the state of absenteeism in the District based on data from the preceding school year, including an analysis of truancy and chronic absenteeism by school or campus and the impact of current laws on improving school attendance.


(Feb. 4, 1925, 43 Stat. 806, ch. 140, Art. I, §§ 5-7; renumbered as Art. II, § 2 and amended, Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-247, § 2(a), 38 DCR 376; Oct. 26, 2010, D.C. Law 18-242, § 3(b), 57 DCR 7555; June 7, 2012, D.C. Law 19-141, § 302(b), 59 DCR 3083; Sept. 19, 2013, D.C. Law 20-17, § 303(b), 60 DCR 9839; July 26, 2016, D.C. Law 21-140, § 2(c), 63 DCR 8207; Dec. 13, 2017, D.C. Law 22-33, § 4143, 64 DCR 7652; Aug. 25, 2018, D.C. Law 22-157, § 3(a), 65 DCR 7499.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-403.

1973 Ed., §§ 31-20531-207.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 38-2605.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-242 added subsec. (i).

D.C. Law 19-141 added subsecs. (i)(A-i), (B-i), and (j).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 20-17 substituted “educational institution” for “public, independent, private, or parochial school and by every teacher who gives instruction privately” in (a); and, in (b), substituted “head teacher, teacher who gives private instruction” for “head teacher” and “educational institution” for “”educational institution“ for ”public, independent, private, or parochial school, and each teacher who gives private instruction.”

Applicability

Section 4150 of D.C. Law 22-33 provided that the amendment made to this section shall apply as of June 27, 2017.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 4143 of Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-167, Oct. 24, 2017, 64 DCR 10802).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 4143 of Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-104, July 20, 2017, 64 DCR 7032).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(c) of School Attendance Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-476, July 21, 2016, 63 DCR 10181).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(c) of School Attendance Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-410, June 1, 2016, 63 DCR 8202).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 303(b) of the Attendance Accountability Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-133, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11531, 20 DCSTAT 1973).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of D.C. Law 19-141, § 601, see § 4112 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-130, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11384, 20 DCSTAT 1827).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of D.C. Law 19-141, § 601, see § 4112 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-204, October 17, 2013, 60 DCR 15341, 20 DCSTAT 2311).

Short Title

Section 4111 of D.C. Law 20-61 provided that Subtitle K of Title IV of the act may be cited as the “South Capitol Street Memorial Amendment Act of 2013”.

Editor's Notes

Section 601 of D.C. Law 19-141, as amended by D.C. Law 19-168, § 7004, provided that §§ 302(b)(1), 304, and 502(a) of the act shall apply upon the inclusion of their fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan.

Section 601 of D.C. Law 19-141, as amended by D.C. Law 20-61, § 4112, provided that §§ 302(b)(1)(A) and (C) and 304(b)(1)(D) of D.C. Law 19-141 shall apply to public charter schools upon the inclusion of their fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan, as certified by the Chief Financial Officer to the Budget Director of the Council in a certification published by the Council in the District of Columbia Register. Section 302(b)(1)(A) of D.C. Law 19-141 added § 38-203(i)(A-i); Section 302(b)(1)(C) of D.C. Law 19-141 added § 38-203(i)(B-i); and Section 304(b)(1)(D) of D.C. Law 19-141 added 5 DCMR § A2103(c)(6).


§ 38–204. Census of minors.

The Board, or its designee, shall conduct annually, or as frequently as may be found necessary or desirable, a complete census of all minors 3 years of age or more who permanently or temporarily reside in the District. The census record shall be amended from day to day as changes of residence occur among minors within the age group, as other persons come within or leave the age group, and as other persons within the age group become residents of or leave the District. The census record of minors shall give the full name, address, sex, and date of birth of each minor, the school attended by him or her and, if the minor is not at school, the name and address of his or her employer, if any, and the name, address, telephone numbers, if any, and occupation of each parent or guardian.


(Feb. 4, 1925, 43 Stat. 807, ch. 140, Art. II, § 1; renumbered as Art. II, § 3 and amended, Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-247, § 2(a), 38 DCR 376.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-404.

1973 Ed., § 31-208.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 38-1802.04, § 38-2605, and § 38-2901.

Cross References

Census duties of public charter schools, see § 38-1802.04.

Duties and responsibilities of charter schools under this section, see § 38-1702.05.


§ 38–205. Report of enrollments and withdrawals.

By October 5 of each year, each public, independent, private, and parochial school shall report to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education the name, address, sex, and date of birth of each minor who resides permanently or temporarily in the District who is currently enrolled in their school. By the 5th of every month thereafter, each school shall report any changes in enrollment, including withdrawals, to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.


(Feb. 4, 1925, 43 Stat. 807, ch. 140, Art. II, § 2; renumbered as Art. II, § 4 and amended, Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-247, § 2(a), 38 DCR 376; Sept. 19, 2013, D.C. Law 20-17, § 303(c), 60 DCR 9839; July 26, 2016, D.C. Law 21-140, § 2(d), 63 DCR 8207.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-405.

1973 Ed., § 31-209.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 20-17 substituted “principal, head teacher, or teacher who gives private instruction of each educational institution” for “principal, or head teacher of each public, independent, private, or parochial school, and each teacher who gives private instruction.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(d) of School Attendance Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-476, July 21, 2016, 63 DCR 10181).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(d) of School Attendance Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-410, June 1, 2016, 63 DCR 8202).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 303(c) of the Attendance Accountability Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-133, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11531, 20 DCSTAT 1973).


§ 38–206. Penalty for failure to provide correct information.

Any parent, guardian, custodian, principal, or teacher of a minor who has reached the age of 3 years who willfully neglects or refuses to provide the information required by §§ 38-202 through 38-206, or who knowingly makes any false statement, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.


(Feb. 4, 1925, 43 Stat. 807, ch. 140, Art. II, § 3; renumbered as Art. II, § 5 and amended, Mar. 8, 1991, D.C. Law 8-247, § 2(a), 38 DCR 376.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-406.

1973 Ed., § 31-210.


§ 38–207. Authority of police over truant child.

(a)(1) A law enforcement officer who has reasonable grounds to believe, based on the minor's age and other factors, that a minor is truant from any public, independent, private, or parochial school on a day and during the hours when the school is in session shall take that minor into custody and deliver the minor to the public, independent, private, or parochial school where the minor is presently enrolled, so long as the school is located in the District.

(2) If the minor is not currently enrolled at a public, independent, private, or parochial school, the law enforcement officer shall take the minor to the District of Columbia Public Schools placement office.

(3) If a minor is enrolled in a public, independent, private, or parochial school located within the District of Columbia, the educational institution shall receive that minor from a law enforcement officer during the hours when the school is in operation.

(b) On the request of a person who has reached the age of 18 years, graduated from high school, or received a general equivalency diploma, and who has previously been taken into custody pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Metropolitan Police Department shall seal all records relating to custody authorized by subsection (a) of this section.

(c) Within 2 business days of a minor student’s 10th unexcused absence during a school year, the educational institution shall send the minor’s parent:

(1) Information from the Chief of Police about the compulsory attendance requirements and criminal penalties for violations of this chapter; and

(2) A letter notifying the parent that he or she may be in violation of the school attendance requirements under this chapter and may be subject to prosecution.


(Feb. 4, 1925, ch. 140, Art. II, § 6; as added Aug. 25, 1994, D.C. Law 10-159, § 3, 41 DCR 4884; Oct. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 13-38, § 1906, 46 DCR 6373; Aug. 16, 2008, D.C. Law 17-219, § 4014, 55 DCR 7598; Sept. 19, 2013, D.C. Law 20-17, § 101(b)(1), 60 DCR 9839; June 26, 2014, D.C. Law 20-117, § 17, 61 DCR 2032; July 26, 2016, D.C. Law 21-140, § 2(e), 63 DCR 8207.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 31-402.1.

1981 Ed., § 38-251.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-38 rewrote this section which formerly required a law enforcement officer to take a student or child into custody and deliver him to the appropriate school and also provided for sealing records pertaining thereto.

D.C. Law 17-219 rewrote subsecs. (a)(1) and (2).

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 20-17 added (c).

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-117 rewrote (c).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(e) of School Attendance Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-476, July 21, 2016, 63 DCR 10181).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(e) of School Attendance Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-410, June 1, 2016, 63 DCR 8202).

For temporary (90-day) amendment of section, see § 1906 of the Service Improvement and Fiscal Year 2000 Budget Support Emergency Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-110, July 28, 1999, 46 DCR 6320).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 101(b)(1) of the Attendance Accountability Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-133, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11531, 20 DCSTAT 1973).

For temporary (90 days) addition of the Act of Feb. 4, 1925, ch. 140, Art. II, § 7, concerning truancy procedures and inter-agency coordination, see § 101(b)(2) of the Attendance Accountability Emergency Amendment Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-133, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11531, 20 DCSTAT 1973).

For temporary (90 days) addition of the Act of Feb. 4, 1925, ch. 140, Art. II, § 8, concerning reporting requirements, see § 101(b)(2) of the Attendance Accountability Emergency Amendment Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-133, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11531, 20 DCSTAT 1973).

Short Title

Short title: Section 4013 of D.C. Law 17-219 provided that subtitle G of title IV of the act may be cited as the “Truancy Centers Amendment Act of 2008”.

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 20-117: Section 18 of D.C. Law 20-117 provided that the act shall apply as of October 1, 2013.


§ 38–208. Truancy procedures; inter-agency coordination.

(a) Repealed.

(b) Within 2 business days of the 10th unexcused absence, the educational institution shall notify the Office of the State Superintendent of Education which shall provide the parent with the truancy prevention resource guide created pursuant to § 38-2602(b)(19); provided, that the parent has not received the truancy prevention resource guide before the 10th unexcused absence.

(c) In addition to the requirements set forth in subsection (b) of this section:

(1)(A) Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, the educational institution shall refer a minor student 5 years of age through 13 years of age to the Child and Family Services Agency pursuant to § 4-1321.02(a-1), no later than 2 business days after the accrual of 10 unexcused full school day absences within a school year.

(B) Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, the educational institution shall refer a minor student 14 years of age through 17 years of age to the Court Social Services Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and to the Office of the Attorney General Juvenile Section no later than 2 business days after the accrual of 15 unexcused full school day absences within a school year.

(C) The educational institution shall have discretion with regard to the referral requirements set forth in subparagraphs (A) and (B) of this paragraph if a minor student accrues the 10th or 15th unexcused absence, respectively, within the final 10 school days of a school year.

(2) Within 3 business days of the Office of the Attorney General, Juvenile Section receiving written notification pursuant to paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection, the Office of the Attorney General shall send the minor student’s parent a letter notifying the parent that he or she may be subject to prosecution for violation of the school attendance requirements under this subchapter.

(d) By July 1 of each year, the State Superintendent of Education shall send written notice to each educational institution outlining the attendance and reporting requirements outlined in this subchapter.


(Feb. 4, 1925, ch. 140, Art. II, § 7; as added Sept. 19, 2013, D.C. Law 20-17, § 101(b)(2), 60 DCR 9839; July 26, 2016, D.C. Law 21-140, § 2(f), 63 DCR 8207.)

Prior Codifications

2001 Ed., § 38-253.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 20-17 added this section.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(f) of School Attendance Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-476, July 21, 2016, 63 DCR 10181).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(f) of School Attendance Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-410, June 1, 2016, 63 DCR 8202).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of section, see § 2 of the Truancy Referral Emergency Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-180, Oct. 22, 2015, 62 DCR 14004).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Truancy Referral Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2016 (D.C. Act 21-285, Jan. 27, 2016, 63 DCR 1193).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Truancy Referral Temporary Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Law 21-56, Jan. 30, 2016, 62 DCR 15600).


§ 38–209. Reporting requirements.

By July 15 of each year, beginning in 2014, the Office of the Attorney General shall submit to the Mayor and the Secretary to the Council a truancy status report on the preceding school year, which shall include the number of:

(1) Referrals it received from each educational institution;

(2) Cases it filed pursuant to this subchapter, and the outcome of each;

(3) Child-in-need of supervision cases filed pursuant to this subchapter, and the outcome of each; and

(4) Students who were enrolled in a court diversion program, or other diversion program pursuant to this subchapter.


(Feb. 4, 1925, ch. 140, Art. II, § 8; as added Sept. 19, 2013, D.C. Law 20-17, § 101(b)(2), 60 DCR 9839.)

Prior Codifications

2001 Ed., § 38-254.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 20-17 added this section.