Michael Bates, Director
Walla Walla/Columbia County
The Becca Bill
Washington’s truancy law, often termed “the Becca Bill”, is intended to stop truancy before it becomes a problem. The law requires only one thing of students: attend school. If a student does not attend school, the law requires the school district to take action. Truancy is a civil matter that, once violated, becomes criminal contempt.
Under the new law, school districts are required to file truancy petitions in juvenile court for any child age eight through age seventeen who has seven unexcused absences from school in one month or ten unexcused absences in one school year. The school is responsible for notifying parents, by phone or letter, of unexcused absences and attempting to work with the youth through conferences and adjustment of the school schedule.
Once a petition is filed the court may schedule a hearing and require that both the parents and the child be present at the hearing. If there is preponderance of evidence, at the hearing the court can grant the petition and enter an order to assume jurisdiction for the remainder of the school year.
After a petition has been signed, the child is ordered to attend school with no unexcused absences or tardies. Further, if the child is absent, a doctor’s note is needed in order to excuse their absence
The Department of Court Services will collaborate with schools by sharing information and tracking the child’s attendance. Once the child has breached three additional unexcused absences after the petition has been signed, the child may go back to court for a contempt of his/her order to attend school. The court representative will make a recommendation to the judge based on information gathered by the school, child, and family, as to the sanctions appropriate in their case.