Truancy and Zero Tolerance in High School: Does Policy Align with Practice?


High rates of student absenteeism and truancy are challenges facing many high schools. Zero tolerance policies are sometimes instituted to establish a clear understanding about expectations for acceptable and unacceptable student behavior. This case study provides a description of one high school’s effort to evaluate the effectiveness of their policy for student chronic unexcused absences. An examination of the school’s data indicated that course category, including basic skills-level and advanced placement, and earned grade were statistically significantly related to points deducted for unexcused absences. Little variation was indicated across grades based on unexcused absence groups, and truancy and grade point loss were equally distributed across all grades. The results indicated that the high school’s zero tolerance unexcused absence policy appeared to be associated with increased point loss for students already failing and receiving instruction in the lowest academic level, with the majority of the students having IEP’s and/or receiving free/reduced lunch. Recommendations and implications are discussed.