Important information on Truancy

“Truancy” means either of the following:     

Any absence of part or all of one or more days from school during which the school attendance

officer, principal or teacher has not been notified of the legal cause of the absence by the pupil’s

parent or guardian. intermittent attendance carried on for the purposes of defeating the intent of

the compulsory school attendance law [s. 118.16 (1) (c), Stats.]

“Truant” means a pupil who is absent from school without an acceptable excuse for part or all of

any day on which school is held during a school semester. [s. 118.163 (1) (d), Stats., as created by

1997 Wisconsin Act 239.]

“Habitual Truant” means a pupil who is absent from school without an acceptable excuse for part

or all of five or more days on which school is held during a school semester. [s. 118.163 (1) (a),

Stats., as created by 1997 Wisconsin Act 239.]


History of the State of Wisconsin Truancy Statues

1987 Wisconsin Act 285 (took effect July 1, 1988)

1st definition of habitual truant

Required schools to notify parents/guardians status as habitual truants

Allowed municipalities to enact ordinances against habitual truancy

Required each county to establish a truancy committee

1993 Wisconsin Act 16

Allowed school boards to establish youth centers for truants taken into custody by local law


1997 Wisconsin Act 239 (took effect July 1, 1998)

Modified statues affecting the definition of a habitual truant

Allowed municipalities to enact ordinances against simple truancy

Gives them the option of issuing citations or levying other sanctions at the first occurrence of


Expanded allowable sanctions to include forfeitures of up to $500 for the first offence and/or up to

30 days’ imprisonment

Second offense- fines up to $1000 and/or imprisonment of up to 90 days

City of Milwaukee Truancy Ordinance

106-23.1 Truancy

B. “Habitual Truant” means any pupil who is truant for part of all of 5 or more days in a school


C. “Truant” means a school pupil who is at least 12 years of age who is absent from school without

an acceptable excuse for part of all of any day in which school is held during a school semester

2. Prohibition. It is a violation of this section for any person under 18 years of age to be truant or a

habitual truant

3. Penalties.

a-1. an order to attend school.

a-2. A forfeiture of not more than $50, plus court costs, for a first violation

b. Any habitual truant may be subject to any or all of the following:

b-1. Suspension of his/her operating privileges for not less than 30 days nor more than one year

b-2. An order to participate in counseling or supervised work program or other community service

work as described in s. 938.342 (1g)(b), Wis. Stats

b-3. An order for the department of workforce development to revoke, under s. 103.70, Wis. Stats.,

authorizing the employment of the habitual truant

Source- Milwaukee City Ordinance Chapter 106

City of Milwaukee :Truancy Ordinance

106-23.2 Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors.

Any parent or legal guardian having legal custody of a minor under the age of 18 years who,

through his or her negligence, laxity or disregard of the morals, health and welfare of the minor,

has contributed to the delinquency of the minor, or any person who shall contribute to the

delinquency of any minor shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than

$500, or in default thereof, by imprisonment in the county jail or house of correction until

such fine, including costs and disbursements, is paid, buy not to exceed 60 days.

106-23.3. Contributing to Truancy

2. Except as provided in sub. 4, no person 18 years of age or older shall knowingly encourage or

contribute to the truancy of a minor under the age of 18 years.

3. An act of omission contributes to the truancy of a minor, whether or not the minor is adjudged to

be in need of protection or services, if the natural and probable consequences of that act or omission

would be to cause the minor to be truant.

5. A person who is convicted of violating this section shall forfeit not less than $25 nor more than

$500, and in default of payment shall be imprisoned in the house of correction or the county jail for

not less than one day nor more than 20 days. (Milwaukee City Ordinance Chapter 106)

Milwaukee Public Schools District Truancy Polices

· Defines “Truancy” and “excused absences”

· Outlines Parent Notification Procedures

· Notifies Parents of their rights to request program or curriculum change

Provides information on the City of Milwaukee funded Truancy Abatement program that helps parents of truant students

School Truancy Policies

· Attendance Officer- monitors attendance and notifies parent

· Assistant principal- meets with parent and truant student

School Social Worker- Will go to the home of truant student/ contact district attorney to pursue court intervention

Federal Level

There is a societal agreement that a well educated citizenry is beneficial to all. According to Dr. Julie Mead, “the state has interests independent from its citizens. As applied to schools this means that the state has an interest in an educated citizenry that may override a parental concern.” Although education is a right not provided by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Courts have supported the idea of public education. The first such court case was Pierce v. Society of Sisters. In 1922, Oregon passed the Compulsory Education Act which required all children between the ages of eight and sixteen to attend a public school.” Since Pierce, courts have uniformly held that a state's requirement that children attend school can be met through either public or private schools." (Fischer)

State Level

States have the right to require children to attend schools. In 1987, Wisconsin passed Act 285 which sets requirements for districts and schools. This law requires schools to notify parents of truant students and allows municipalities to enact truancy ordinances. This act also requires counties to establish truancy committees. In 1997, Wisconsin passed Act 239 which broadened the definition of truancy and stiffened penalties for truant students and parents/guardians who don't actively make their child go to school.

Municipal Level

On the Municipal level, the city refers to Wisconsin State Statutes for definitions and legal precedent on truancy. The Milwaukee city ordinance, 106-23.1, defines truancy and details penalties such as monetary, imprisonment, work permit denial, and student driving privileges revocation. Following the State’s requirement that the Municipalities form truancy committees, the City of Milwaukee has what is called the Truancy Abatement and Burglary Suppression Program (TABS). This program has a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. If a student is picked up during the school day, and does not have a legitimate excuse to be out of school, the Milwaukee Police can pick up the student and bring him to the Boys and Girls Club. Once at the TABS location, an intake person enters the student into the Milwaukee Public School database. Anyone who has access to the students’ records can see if the child was picked up by TABS. Once at TABS, a student meets with an MPS social worker and is counseled on his or her reasons for being truant. If the child is a habitual truant, the social worker puts the student on a two week attendance monitoring program. Everyday, the social worker checks to see if the student is in every class. If the child misses a class, the parents are immediately called. It has been my experience that students respond to this type of monitoring because it brings in the City of Milwaukee into the process. Parents are also counseled as to what they can do to increase student attendance. They are also warned about the consequences if their child does not attend school. Parents who report that they are unable to force their child to go to school are referred to the Family Intervention Social Service Program, or the “FISS” program. This program is funded by Milwaukee County. 

District Level

The Milwaukee Public School Board fulfills requirements set by the State of Wisconsin by performing the following duties set by the State:

A.             Notifies parents of attendance policies

B.             Has procedures in place to notify parents of

                 truant students

C.             Defines acceptable excused absences

D.             Defines truancy

E.              Provides a municipally funded resource (TABS) (MPS handbook)

School Level Policies

At Pulaski High School, assistant principals meet with students who are habitual truant. Currently, assistant principals are finding it harder to meet with truant students because of other “more pressing” situations. The School Attendance Officer keeps track of student attendance and is responsible for contacting parent/guardian and the school social worker will perform home visits as time allows.

Current Truancy Trends
                 According to Wisconsin's Information Network for Successful Schools, MPS enrolls about 11% of the students in the state, and reports more than 50% of all the habitual truants in the state (2004 report). MPS high school average rate of habitual truancy was 73% in 2003. Since then, the truancy rate has increase to almost 80% in 2005-2006.  

Legal Conclusions 

Text Box: After Pierce v. Society of Sisters, courts have held that states can require children to go to school. The States determine compulsory education, define truancy, and set requirements for municipalities which fulfill state requirements by outlining truancy and penalties and taking truants and parents to court. The Districts and schools monitor and notify parents as required by the State of Wisconsin. Students and parents must comply with the laws of the City of Milwaukee or they will face serious legal consequences.
Fischer, L., Schimmel, D. & Stellman, L.  (2003). Teachers and the Law (6th Ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Mead, J. (2003). Ed. Admin. 940: Legal Rights and Responsibilities. (Weekly Online Content).


“The function of education is

to teach one to think intensively

and to think critically...

Intelligence plus character –

that is the goal of true education.” 
Martin Luther King Jr

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