Attendance Matters — for All Students, in Every School

Excellence; success; opportunity. These are all things we want for every student in Nashville’s public schools. But we can’t help our students achieve these three things if they aren’t in school. When students miss school, they miss out. Student who are in school consistently learn more, achieve higher and are more likely to graduate high school ready for their next step — and we want to help our families and students get to school every day.

As parents, we may not realize how absences add up, but students who miss school have difficulty keeping up with their peers academically and tend to fall behind in reading. Last year, 18 percent of MNPS students missed at least 18 or more school days  that’s more than 15,000 students who missed more than half a month of instructional time.

You can help. As parents, mentors and role models, you can help us tell our students: your attendance matters and we want to see you in school!


Tennessee State Law

Tennessee law requires children ages 6 through 17 to attend school. Attending school daily helps students succeed academically. Missing school not only leads to difficulties for a student academically, but also socially and emotionally.

If a student is found to be unlawfully absent from school and/or habitually truant, the student may be taken into custody by law enforcement personnel and transported to the Metro Student Attendance Center (M-SAC). Juvenile court may also become involved if a student is truant.

The parent or guardian of any MNPS student should consistently update address records and contact information with the school staff so the school can contact them. Any information regarding attendance and truancy will be sent home via U.S. Postal Service, email and automated phone calls.

Tip: Whenever possible, plan your doctor’s appointments, trips and other obligations around the academic calendar.


Excused Absences

What qualifies as an excused absence?
  • Student’s personal illness
  • Family member’s illness that requires the student’s temporary help
  • Death in the family (up to three days)
  • Deployment of a parent or guardian serving in the military (one day for deployment, one day for return and up to 10 days when the service member is on temporary leave at home)
  • Head lice (up to three days per infestation)
  • Recognized religious holidays regularly observed by persons of the student’s faith
  • Court appearance or legally mandated meetings
  • Documented college visitations (up to three days per year for juniors and seniors)
  • The principal may allow the following circumstances to be considered an excused absence if the parent or guardian submits a written request:
    • Unexpected emergencies such as car problems
    • Job interview or conference
    • Doctor or dental appointments
    • Other circumstances requested in writing by the parent or guardian that the principal considers to require a student’s absence
Documenting Excused Absences
  • The parent or guardian of the student must send in a written note explaining why the student missed school within three days of the student’s return to school after being absent.
  • Because students sometimes lose notes or forget to turn them in, the parent or guardian should make sure the designated school staff in the front office has received the written excuse notes.
  • The parent or guardian should keep a copy of the written excuse note for personal record.
  • If a written excuse note is not turned in, the absence will be considered an unexcused absence.
  • Absences will be marked on the student’s attendance record as either excused or unexcused. The parent or guardian can request copies of the student’s attendance record from the school’s front office.
What role does the principal have in deciding whether an absence is excused?
  • Every principal establishes different rules regarding excusing absences. Parents and guardians should make sure they know the attendance policy for each school that their student attends. 
    • To maintain satisfactory attendance and the best chance of accomplishing academic growth and achievement, MNPS recommends a maximum of five (5) parent/guardian excuse notes. Any other absences will need to have a doctor's note or proof of a positive COVID test to excuse the absence.
  • When a written excuse note is turned in, the principal may do the following:
    • Excuse an absence
    • Refuse to excuse an absence
    • Require a written or verbal explanation from the parent or guardian explaining the reason for each absence
    • Require other documentation that the principal thinks is appropriate to excuse the absence
    • Require a doctor’s statement that the student’s absences are related to an illness
    • Require a doctor’s statement approving the student to participate in the regular school program or extracurricular activities
What if there is concern about the accuracy of the student’s attendance record?

If a parent/guardian has concerns regarding the accuracy of the student’s attendance, he/she can contact the school to discuss potential discrepancies. Concerns about the student’s absences may be appealed to the school’s principal, who will make the final decision.


Late Arrivals and Early Dismissals

All instructional time is important. Arriving to school on time and staying in school all day allows students to receive all available instruction, engage in social and emotional experiences, hear important announcements, and develop positive lifelong habits. Alternately, students who arrive late or leave early miss valuable instruction time, disrupt the flow of class, distract students, and impede learning.

Every school shall establish, and communicate to parents or guardians, a schedule of consequences for students with late arrivals and early dismissals. Those consequences shall not include further loss of instructional time such as in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension.

  • Students must attend at least 50% of the scheduled school day to be counted present.
  • If a student attends less than 50% of a scheduled school day, the student will be marked as absent. A written excuse note should be submitted to the front office for this to be considered an excused absence.
  • Students who arrive after the designated start time of school will be counted as tardy. A student who leaves prior to the end of school will be marked as early dismissal.
  • The principal will determine the time frame in which tardy students are able to go directly to class. Students are expected to get an admit slip to class from the office staff upon arriving at school.
  • Students will not be released from school for early dismissal without prior approval from the parent or guardian.
  • The names of the adults who are permitted to pick up the student from school must be documented in the student’s school file. Without prior notification from the student’s parent or guardian, a student will not be released to an adult whose name is not documented in the file.
  • The parent/guardian or adult whose name is listed on file will be asked to show the front office staff a picture ID for the student to be released from school.


Make-up Work for Missed Assignments While Absent

  • Students with an excused absence will have the opportunity to make up the assignments that they missed during their absence. The student’s absence will not affect the student’s grade on the completed make-up assignment.
  • The parent or student must request make-up work within three days of the student returning to school. The teacher and student will agree on a date that make-up work must be completed by in order for the student to receive credit.
  • The unexcused absence will remain unexcused even if missed work is completed.



A student is considered to be truant after he or she has more than four unexcused absences in a school year.

  • The school staff may make a referral to various support staff, school-based programs, youth court and M-SAC (see more details below), as part of the district’s progressive attendance intervention strategy to alleviate any social, emotional or family issues that may be contributing to the student’s absences. School staff may also require students to take part in school-based community services, Saturday courses or after-school courses designed to improve attendance.
  • In-school suspension or out-of-school suspension must not be used as part of the progressive attendance intervention plans adopted by schools for unexcused absence from class or school.
  • When a student has five unexcused absences, the principal may make a referral to juvenile court so the court can intervene with the student’s truancy. If a juvenile court referral is made, the parent or guardian of the student must attend court and court reviews, as well as pay the fees that accompany court costs. If the student continues to miss school and remains truant, the court has the authority to remove the student from the parent or guardian’s home.
  • If a student has an IEP, the school must hold a Manifestation Determination Review to determine whether the student’s absences were related to the student’s disability prior to making a referral to juvenile court. If the student’s disability had a direct and substantial relationship to the absences, a truancy referral to juvenile court will not be made.

Metro Student Attendance Center (M-SAC)

In 2008, Metro Juvenile Court established Metro Student Attendance Center (M-SAC) in an effort to reduce truancy. M-SAC works with students who have been detained by police for loitering during school hours or who have been identified by the schools as being truant (having more than four unexcused absences). M-SAC, along with the student and parent/guardian’s input, assesses the underlying reasons the student is truant. If needed, M-SAC can make referrals to various social service agencies to provide additional support to the student. M-SAC works closely with MNPS so that the schools can effectively follow up on the student’s attendance.

Driver's License Revocation

More than ten (10) consecutive or fifteen (15) reported unexcused absences by a student during any semester renders a student ineligible to retain a driver's permit or license, or to obtain such if of age.

In order to qualify for reclaiming a driver's permit or license, the student must make a passing grade in at least three (3) full unit subjects or their equivalency at the conclusion of a subsequent grading period.

Attendance Revocation for Students Attending Schools Outside Their Zone

Students within MNPS can attend schools outside of their school zone. To maintain enrollment at the out-of-zone school, students must maintain satisfactory attendance (attending 95 percent or more of their days enrolled).

If a student has 10 or more unexcused absences during a school year, they may forfeit their enrollment at their chosen out-of-zone school and be re-enrolled in their school of zone. If revocation occurs, families will be notified in writing by their out-of-zone school and the School Options Department at the Support Hub. 


Other Resources

Adult Education Program — High School Equivalency Test

Students 17 years of age or older are eligible to take the High School State Equivalency Test (HiSET) in lieu of earning a high school diploma with the approval of the director of schools. Students wishing to take the HiSET are encouraged to enroll in a state-approved HiSET program. Students must submit a written application for testing to the Chief of Student Services/designee for a recommendation to be made to the Director of Schools. All applicants must be interviewed in order to be recommended for testing.

Discharge of Compulsory Attendance

Students who have reached their 17th birthday may be excused from compulsory attendance under the following circumstances:

  • The student significantly disrupts the learning of other students,
  • The student’s behavior requires consistent and significant discipline,
  • The student is not significantly benefitting from attending school.