Excused vs. Unexcused Absences in Maryland Schools


Is your child feeling under the weather? To avoid an unexcused absence, remember that a doctor’s note is required for illnesses lasting longer than 3 days.

Tracking attendance is something the officials in Maryland schools take very seriously, and parents and guardians should as well. Regardless of the reason, when your student is absent, they are missing out on valuable class time and may fall behind. Every single school day, whether your student is in Pre-K or high school, they have the the opportunity to expand their knowledge and excel. Let’s discuss the difference between excused and unexcused absences in Maryland schools.

What are Maryland Laws About School Attendance?  

Section 7-301 of the education article from the General Assembly of Maryland states that, “Except as otherwise provided in this section, each child who resides in this State and is 5 years old or older and under 17 shall attend a public school regularly during the entire school year.” It is important to understand the differences between chronic absences and truancy. Students who miss more than 20 days in a school year, whether the absences are excused or unexcused, are considered chronically absent and struggle to keep up with their classmates. There are school-level consequences at this level. Truancy refers to 15 or more unexcused absences (or 20% of school days missed), and there are legal consequences for parents at this level, including jail time.

What is Considered an Excused Absence in Maryland?

As critical as school attendance is, there are circumstances in Maryland where an absence can be excused. Once the parent or guardian provides a note explaining that the absence was due to one of the following reasons, it will be considered a lawful excuse:

  • Death in the immediate family (parent or legal guardian, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, cousin, or any other person who lives with the student)
  • Illness (a doctor’s note is required for illnesses lasting longer than three days)
  • Court summons with the student’s name on it
  • Inclement or hazardous weather conditions
  • Observance of a religious holiday
  • State of emergency
  • Activities or work approved by the school
  • Suspension
  • Lack of authorized school transportation (bus or MTA)

What is Considered an Unexcused Absence in Maryland?

An unexcused absence in Maryland is any absence, for any portion of the day, for any reason other than those cited as lawful. Without proof of one of the aforementioned excuses, absences are presumed to be unlawful and may constitute truancy. Examples of an unexcused absence in Maryland include:

  • Caring for siblings or other family members
  • Traveling on a family vacation
  • Visiting the MVA to take a driving test or update a document
  • Failure to catch the school-authorized bus or transportation
  • Sleeping in

Note: If your student is in school for less than two hours in a day, they are considered absent. If your student attends school for two to four hours in a day, they are counted as present for only half of the day.  Want to know more about why attendance matters? Learn more about MBK’s role in the Attendance Affirmation Project here.

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