What is an "excused" or "unexcused" absence?

There are two places to look to find what absences should be excused: state rules and local district policies.

There are State Rules that apply in all school districts, and they list several types of absences that are excused. You can find the current state rules online, and the section that says what absences are excused is at WAC 392-401-020, here: https://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=392-401-020.

Excused absences include reasons like illness or health condition, family emergency, and absences due to safety concerns. Those are just some examples. Check the full list if you have questions about whether a particular absence should be excused.

Also check your own school district’s policy on attendance. Districts must follow the state rules and excuse absences that are on the state list. They can also add to that list if there are additional reasons that they would excuse an absence.

The state rules sometimes change, so it is a good idea to check them directly if you have questions about the kinds of absences that should be excused.

At the time of the update to this toolkit, there has been recent changes in state policy to address absences due to mental health. During the 2022 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed House Bill 1834, directing the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to categorize mental health-related absences as excused under illness, health condition, or medical appointment. This rule went into effect on August 1, 2022 and the updated language for excused absences can be found in Section 1(a) of WAC 392-401-020: https://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=392-401-020&pdf=true

In addition to an update to attendance rules that now includes a broader definition for mental health and its categorization as an excused absence, this statute also directed the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to create guidance for implementation in consultation with the Graduation A Team Effort committee as well as an advisory group made up of students most impacted by this rule change and who are representative of Washington’s diverse student population. This guidance was released on August 22nd of the same year: https://ospi.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/2023-08/guidance_on_mental_health_related_absences_final.pdf

If the reason for an absence is not on the excused list, then it would be "unexcused."