Common Reasons for Poor Attendance and Related Support

Resources that can help you set your child up for long-term success by making sure they are in school every day.

There are many reasons why students miss school when they don’t have to—struggling in the classroom, having conflict with other students or adults, or dealing with challenges at home. But when your child misses school for any reason, it becomes harder for them to succeed in school.

As a parent, you can identify the reasons why your child is absent from school and help them to overcome these challenges. Start here to find resources that can help you set your child up for long-term success by making sure they are in school every day.

Chronic Health Issues | Family Travel | New to County or in Transition | Transportation Issues | Academic Disengagement | Mental Health and Stress | Substance Abuse Prevention |Sleep Deprivation / Fatigue

When Should I Send My Child to School?

Children and adolescents will get sick at times and may need to stay at home, but we want to work with you to help minimize the number of days your child misses school.

Chronic Health Issues 

The connection between student health and chronic absenteeism is clear and direct. Both chronic and acute health conditions can prevent students from attending school. Research indicates that common health conditions resulting in missed school include asthma, influenza, diabetes, obesity and related illness, seizure disorders, mental health, anxiety, headaches,  and vision problems. Ultimately, instruction should take place in the school setting to the fullest extent possible.  All school-based interventions should be considered prior to referral for additional services.

  • Return to Learn provides support to students returning to school following an extended absence as they integrate back into classes and the social environment of school. School-based professionals, consisting of school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers, are available to support the transition process as your child returns to their learning environment following a chronic illness, short-term illness, mental health challenge, concussion, childbirth, or other medical condition. 
  • Homebound Instruction provides continuity between the classroom and home or healthcare facility for those students whose medical needs do not allow for school attendance.  These services are considered temporary and are based on the premise that instruction should take place in the school setting to the fullest extent possible.  All school-based interventions should be considered prior to referral for homebound.
  • School Health Services
  • Fairfax County Health Department serves the residents of Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, and the towns of Herndon, Vienna and Clifton.  The Health Department works towards the prevention of epidemics and the spread of disease, protects the public against environmental hazards, promotes and encourages healthy behaviors, assures the quality and accessibility of health services, and responds to disasters and assisting communities in recovery.  The Health Department Information Line:  703-246-2411 (TTY 711).
  • Addressing the Health-Related Causes of Chronic Absenteeism: A Toolkit for Action from Attendance Works 
  • The Importance of School Attendance (Video) from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Managing Asthma from the School Environmental Health and Asthma Collaborative - Descriptions of the most common asthma triggers in the home and information on how to reduce or eliminate them.

Family Travel

Are you planning a family trip or vacation? As you think about your arrangements, we want to stress the importance of sending your child to school every day possible. Every year, absences spike in the weeks before and after holidays as families squeeze in a few more vacation days. We recognize that it is important to reconnect with families far away, but keep in mind the costs to your childs education if they miss too much school— and the message you will be sending about the importance of attendance.  

New to County or in Transition

Transportation Issues

Develop a back-up plan for getting to school if something comes up or if your child misses the bus. Call on a family member, a neighbor, or another parent for support.

  • Free Student Public Transportation Bus Pass Program from Fairfax County Goverment
    Students can now sign up for the Free Student Bus Pass Pilot Program at all Fairfax County public high schools and middle schools, and ride the Fairfax Connector for free! Find more information at your school’s administration office. You need to have your parent’s or guardian’s approval for signing up. 

Academic Disengagement

Students may miss school because they don’t understand the work, or feel successful, or feel that they have gotten so far behind that they will never catch up, or don’t see that school is helping them to meet their goals. Once they start to miss school, these problems become even worse, as they feel disconnected from their teachers and other students, and the missed work feels overwhelming. FCPS provides many options to support learning and to help the student feel more hopeful about graduating and earning a diploma. If you feel that your child seems disinterested in school and is skipping classes or beginning to miss more than 5 days in a semester, please contact your school counselor, who can discuss options for support in the current program, and provide information about non-traditional programs that offer individualization, support and flexible schedules to help your child graduate. 

 

Mental Health and Stress

Crippling anxiety before speaking in front of a class. Embarrassment about a learning disability. Post-traumatic stress from witnessing neighborhood violence. Depression that results in extreme fatigue. A wide range of mental health issues can keep students out of school and limit their engagement during class.

Substance Abuse Prevention

Research shows that there is a definite link between teen substance abuse and school performance. Teens who abuse drugs have lower grades, a higher rate of absence from school and other activities, and an increased potential for dropping out of school.

  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Programs - High school students who have violated the alcohol or other drug regulations in the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SR&R) and those students who volunteer for the class may be eligible to attend our three-day seminar.  FCPS works with the students to bring them the most accurate, up-to-date information on alcohol and drugs. 
  • Fairfax County Community Services Board provides substance use/substance dependency outpatient services for middle and high school-aged youth and their families. The goal is to reduce and then stop the youth’s use of alcohol and/or drugs. Contact CSB Entry and Referral Services (available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) – 703-383-8500, TTY 711. This is the starting point for accessing mental health or substance abuse services through the CSB. Staff can take calls in English and Spanish and can access other languages when needed.
  • Fairfax County Community Services Board (Spanish)
  • Return to Learn provides support to students returning to school following an extended absence as they integrate back into classes and the social environment of school. School-based professionals, consisting of school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers, are available to support the transition process as your child returns to their learning environment following a chronic illness, short-term illness, mental health challenge, concussion, childbirth, or other medical condition.

The Student Safety and Wellness Office provides opportunities for education and intervention for identified FCPS students. Parents may refer students to this educational seminar by contacting a school administrator.

 

Sleep Deprivation / Fatigue

When a teen wakes up feeling exhausted, the thought of going to school might send him or her right back under the covers. If sleep deprivation is a chronic problem, adolescents may start missing one day of school every week or even missing several days at a time in an attempt to “catch up” on missed sleep.

Absences Add Up

Attending school regularly helps students feel better about school—and themselves.