Chronic Absenteeism Versus Truancy

  • Chronic Absenteeism and truancy are terms that are frequently used interchangeably to describe very serious and excessive patterns of missed days from school. While the definitions are correlated, they reflect unique differences which require school personnel to apply specific strategies when addressing these two concerns.

    Chronic Absenteeism is a term used to describe excessive missed time from school regardless of the reason. Research shows that children are less likely to succeed academically if he or she is chronically absent. Missing just one day of school every two weeks can place a child at risk of academic failure.

    Students who are identified as truant are also considered to be chronically absent from school. However, truancy specifically involves a series of absences that have been accrued without reasonable excuse and verification. The Commonwealth of Virginia law stipulates that a student is deemed truant when they are absent, without excuse, for a total of five school days or more within the year. Truant behavior can yield very serious consequences for students and their parents.

    Knowing the difference between chronic absenteeism and truancy will enable school personnel, students, and community members to understand school attendance practices more effectively.


    • An excessive amount of unexcused and unverified absences from school. The Commonwealth of Virginia's truancy laws specify that all children must attend school every day.
    • ACPS attendance policies state that a student is considered truant at the accumulation of five or more unexcused or unverified absences within an academic year.

    Chronic Absenteeism:

    • An excessive amount of days missed from school, regardless of the reason.
    • Chronic absenteeism occurs when a student is absent 18 or more days over the course of an entire school year.
    • Missing just one school day every two weeks can place a child at risk of academic failure.