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When Schools Punish Sick Children Who Miss School: A Game Plan

by Pam Wright

(Moved from Community Helpline)

My child has an IEP. She has chronic health problems documented by three medical specialists and she has a Health Plan. Chronic health problems and medical appointments forced her to miss many school days this year. She made up all her work and has no incomplete assignments. Her grades are A’s and B’s.

The school told her that if she doesn’t make up the time she missed, she will not get credit for these classes. Can they do that? She would gladly give up her sick days for school days.

The purpose of laws that require children to attend a certain number of school days is to deter truancy. A law that is intended to deter truancy must include exemptions for children who have chronic illnesses or who are injured, not truant. Your child passed her classes with flying colors but the school is threatening to withhold credit for these classes because she was ill and unable to attend school.

Public schools are required by law to accommodate the health needs of students. The plan to accommodate health needs may be called a health plan or a 504 plan. Your child has a health plan but the school is not following it.

Call your State Department of Education. (You will find contact information for your state in the Directory of State Education Departments) Ask about your state’s attendance requirements and exemptions for children who have documented illnesses and health plans. Please let us know what you learn.

I spoke with the state department of education about the school’s punishment of my child for truancy when she has a chronic illness. Because the chronic health issues are noted in her IEP, and because her IEP states she will need special accommodations, her absences are excused. The representative thought our district is just not familiar with the laws that protect students with chronic illnesses.

Thanks for letting us know that you were able to resolve this problem. In our opinion, the school should give your daughter an award for courage and perseverance, despite the obstacles she faced.

For readers who have sick children, the American Diabetes Association has prepared excellent model 504 plans and health plans. These model plans can be modified to cover other health or medical problems that affect a child’s school performance. Download the model plan and revise it so it describes your child’s medical condition and needs related to that condition. Consult with your child’s doctor to make sure the plan is complete and covers all your child’s health needs.

To learn more about helping children with chronic illnesses, read My Child Has Health Problems, the School Reports Him Truant by Suzanne Whitney. Sue writes about creative advocacy strategies in Doing Your Homework. Review the legal and advocacy information and resources from the American Diabetes Society. This information is useful in advocating for children with other health problems.

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176 Comments on "When Schools Punish Sick Children Who Miss School: A Game Plan"


i got my appendix taken out but it erupted while i was at the hospital after the surgery like a week later. i had to go back to the hospital so i missed a total of 3 weeks. will i get held back?


My child, with IEP since preschool, missed 43 excused days in Kindergarten, above average in math/reading. 1st grade at another school where today I got the feeling of doom & gloom conversing w/ Principle & School nurse already saying they allow 7 missed days total…he has severe allergies & on antibiotics all Fall of 2014. Major inhaled allergens/chemical irritants-not good. Diagnosed sinus disease & prior schools were provided letters from doctor to keep him in at recess/outdoor time. Avoidance is the key especially with medicine allergies/intolerance. I asked allergist to write a letter stating his conditions cause him to be absent…ILState Board of Ed will be next.


UPdate:My original post July 2014: Well, a year later… Finally got a diagnosis for my now 17 almost 18 year old. Stanford diagnosed her with Dysautonomia/Pots. Well, needless to say a year later after kicking her out of her Senior year, Now… they are willing to work with me! Hmmm I will share how this all turns out! :0)


My son has a very extensive case of papillary cancer. He is on an inter district transfer (CA), same school for 6 yrs since kindergarden. Just kicked out of the district for attendance, missing 6 days, tardy. He’s on a 504 plan. Can they kick him out of the district? He is kicked out for next year, only thing is he wont be attending the elementary school anymore, he starts middle school so he wont even have anything to do with the principal that kicked him out. He now has to start middle school at a new school with no friends or anything familiar.The principal pulled him out of class one morning, told him he is kicked out, told him to tell his parents. When we picked him up he burst in to tears. How could a principal be so heartless to an 11 year old child. My son felt intimidated and that the principal didn’t like him cause he has cancer. What can I do to possibly get him back where he wants and needs to be?

They also revoked his brothers transfer and said they are not taking transfers this year yet on the district website it says they are currently accepting transfers. I would like any info of what I could do. I just want my children to go to the schools they have been at for so many years, its their home away from home.


Contact the District Office and voice you concerns in a meeting with them. This is abuse of power for no good reasons.


My daughter was told by the Principal that she can not return to school until she has a physical and note from her doctor stating all of her diagnoses because they had to call the paramedics “to many times” for her but she has only had two episodes and the school only had to call the paramedics one time and she has seen the school nurse one time this whole school year and ECAs are during the same week. Can the principal do that to her? Is that legal?


My grand-daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October. She has missed an enormous amount of school this year because of it. She was in the hospital last week for 7 days. The principal of the school called home and said that he was considering calling the police because her daughter had missed so much school. She has two things coming up in the next month that will add to her absences. My daughter-in-law considered home schooling her for the rest of the year and the principal said that would be fine but she would not be welcomed back in the fall. When she started school last year, they were living within the district. They now have moved out of the district, but the school said that she could still attend this year. Does she have any recourse? Looking for some options.


Absolutely I am in Texas and just went to court because my Diabetic daughter missed to many days from school. I got the case dismissed. Contact American Diabetes Association. You need to get you a 504/ civil rights act – 1973 Rehab Act section 504 should cover you for absences as related to her diabetes DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO BULLY YOU, this is not a disease that will go away and with puberty hormones etc sugars will go crazy for no reason. Make sure communication with school is documented – get doctor to write in her medical plan that parents/guardians have medical management permission to include absences or tardies as related to her diabetes management. They just also tried to make my daughter go to Saturday school where, after I requesting the documentation that they trained the Saturday teacher, they said oh sorry their not trained. So had I sent her, her life could have been in danger. They are wrong – the ADA will give you very valuable In formation


I get sick easily and I have missed 17 days of school or so they say I have. the teachers and principal has been messing with my grades and stuff they sent a letter to my mom saying if I don’t go to school she will be charged, over half the sickness has a doctors note my mom emails the school saying I am sick, but they seem to not do anything a few weeks one of be teachers had touched me and they aren’t suppossed to do that. the teachers tease and start rumors about me, my mom emails her lawyer telling him what days I missed and the principle still counts me absent, he threatened me with being charged with truency, I have a chronic bronchitis, I have to get my tonsils out soon cause I can’t talk or swallow, I get bad migraines, and I have social anxiety, depression bipolar disorder, many things.


I’ve been very sick for a few months with severe abdominal pains to the point where I can’t move. I have been to the doctor but haven’t figured anything out. I know I’ve missed 20+ days of school and I am terrified of being in trouble, but two days ago I got an upper and lower gi and I’m still feeling pain in my stomach from that. Idk what to do. Should I make a 504 plan? My moms already told the school I am sick. But can they still try to take us to court or hold me back?


Do you have diagnosed allergies? YEARS ago my two oldest were in school-separate classrooms due to age but in the rooms with the highest mold counts and where 2 girls almost died due to asthma (IL). School was built on wetland without proper paperwork from the Army Corp of Engineers (The whole case file was sent to me by the Attorney handling the case as I advised him to check if there were Code and Ordinance Violations. He checked and there were). One of my children had ab cramping, headaches, sore throats due to this. IBS & GERD can be allergy related. It affected my others behavior, could not concentrate and other aspects.


I’m 17 and in epileptic. I have missed a lot school due to epilepsy. The school sends me home every time I have one there. Also theres a paper in my records that state if I have one the day before i don’t go. They are trying to call the cops. Is there anything that me and my mom can do?


School told my daughter that she could not attend her morning classes and miss her afternoon classes(doing home study ) and still be enrolled in her high school. They told her she would be enrolled in a school that is for what my daughter calls “stoners” and bad kids . Independent study/gateway . She has been diagnosed with an autoimmune diseases and has a Doctors note for the guidelines of what she can do so she doesn’t push herself to hard . My daughter is on honor roll and we both feel we are getting railroaded into something she clearly doesn’t want . She said she would rather cut off her legs than go to gateway . I didn’t sign anything . I called her Doctor who also is amazed . She will now have a 504 meeting in a month. We feel the way it was handled was sneaky and don’t know what to do now .


What can I do if my son school district keeps sending us harassing letter about my son missing so many school days? My son has a kidney disease call Focal Segment Al Glomasitis. FSGs and his school keeps sending harassing letters about him missing to much schools. He has a health plan.


Jill, You need to request, in writing, that the school develop a 504 Plan (preferably) or Health Plan for your daughter. In your letter, describe your child’s medical condition and problems (seizures). Attach a copy of the neurologist’s report. Ask that the Plan incorporate her doctor’s recommendations.

The school’s plan needs to be in writing. Every staff member who works with your child should have a copy of her 504 Plan or Health Plan. Be sure to read the info on this page about written health plans for children:

If you don’t have confidence in your ability to write a good letter to the school, use our tutorial on “Advocating Through Letter Writing” – it will help you get up and running.


Thank You Pam, We requested that the school update the IHP to reflect the newly written Seizure Action Plan but the school refused, crossing off the Dr’s directions in the document! School would not commit to aides communicating with us and would only offer a “staff” at the school –likely unfamiliar with our daughter to relay the information we needed( HIPPA violation?). I discovered that there are no laws that govern IHP’s. There are only recommendations from the US Dept of Ed that the IHP be reviewed yearly. After several letters documenting this ridiculous experience to the superintendent and the school board members, describing what had happened, the district ultimately provided a 1:1 nurse.


Our school will not follow the health plan outlined by the neurologist which states that the aides will contact us by phone with a description of our daughter’s seizure, time of the seizure and the length.
The school does have a “School Cell Phone” which can be used if the aides don’t want to use theirs. Having a 3rd party call us with this information will not work as they did not see the seizure and we cannot ask that person the questions we need to accurately document the seizure and make next step decisions. Our daughter’s seizures are not severe but are frequent and we have letters from 2 docs and forms from the Epilepsy Clinic. She does not need a nurse-we only need a description of the seizure and a general check in afterward.


I think all parents on here having issues with truancy really need to explore home schooling. And the kids that im seeing on here having issues with their schools need to talk to their parents about home schooling them. Im contemplating the same thing.


Help. I’m going today to file a complaint and am going to ask the doctor for a note to get the 504 plan. The principal is not working with me. Now she says my child cannot go to camp because he’s too sick. I need help.


My son is in 4th grade and every time he is sick he goes to the nurse who then calls me then my dad to come pick him up from school when he has a low grade fever like 99.5 or 100.6. The nurse then tells my father that he has to stay home for 24 hours until he can come back to school that it’s policy. I read our school handbook front to back and no where in there does it say the child has to stay home for 24 hours. Does that mean if no policy in the handbook then there is no policy at all and they don’t have the right to send my child home?


I am a child with really bad stomach problems and a lot of missed school but the teachers are thinking that I am doing on purpose


It seems that most schools even with a 504 Plan can send you to a court for truancy. Parents educate yourself about the law. Bring ALL documentation to Court. Present your information. I have seen all parents be faced with their children ‘s truancy because of their physical or mental issues. Schools do this to try to make up for the money they lose for the child’s absence. Learn how to present your case which should be dismissed, and go against the Judge who even takes your case. You win if dismissed and should not have to pay the Court costs. File charges against the school for using your child’s absences against them. Retaliation is usually a felony in most jurisdictions. Use your knowledge of the law against the school. and the Court. Parents can get slapped with a Criminal Class B Misdemeanor if you are not prepared.


Just moved to GA. Child gets sick from allergies and the germs she picks up at school from other kids. She misses 10 days due to a severe ear infection and now the county has sent the truant officer after me. Her teacher is pressuring her to do more and more make up work and has failed her for the work she could not finish during the time she was away. She had a fever over 100 for 10 days straight! Social worker accuses me of being a bad parent because I let her stay home from school when she is sick and threatens that she won’t be able to get into college. She is only in the 5th grade! I am appalled. They would prefer to keep sick kids in school so that the petty bureaucrats can have “bums on seats” to keep their jobs. They are not interested in the care or education of our children.


Okay, so lately I has been missing a lot of school. I get sick really easily. And I’m one of four kids and when one gets sick, we all get sick. I have missed about 10 or less days of school this year. I have already missed 2 this week because I have the flu. My mom called my school to tell them I was sick and they started talking about truancy officers. I’m a 6th grader in middle school and I’m scared. I’m scared that my teachers will be mad. I always make up my homework, but just the thought of truancy officers scares me. I have to admit, sometimes (I’m not faking), but I still could go to school (kinda sick). I have stopped doing that but I’m still scared. My homeroom teach got mad at me when I missed 15 min. of first period. Now I have an orthodontist appt. Any tips for school or life in general?


Okay I have missed in total this year probably about 14 days of school. I have been sick for 3 weeks with mono and a teacher is refusing to giving me full time to do my missing assignments and is even not letting me make up the assignment at all. This is honestly childish and ridiculous. I can not control when I get better or worse I have been bed ridden all week and I think as a student I should get my rights. I am 13 years old and i dont appreciate being screamed at and treated like an adult by an adult. What do i do ?


My son has to go to court for missing 10 days of school. But the School has doctors notes for over half of those days. Why does he still have to go to court for it. He had surgery on his ears.


My child told me today that the school made him sign a paper stating that he was a witness that saw an incident that happen in school with 2 other kids that were not even from his class room, i am concern because my son is autistic and I had knowledge about this in to today because my son had such an anxiety that I ask him what was wrong and he told me ,Is this even legal for him to sign with out his parent know


My son suffers from Migraines, gerd,& insomnia. Basically he wakes up with severe migraines. Last year(10th grade), he stopped attending school in December 2013. I went in for an IEP in January 2014. He was put in hospital homebound. He did most of his work for almost 2 semesters as paperwork slowed things down. He did not pass any core class for his 10th grade year because the school and teachers counted his time missed in 2012 as relevant to his grade. This year he started off as a 10th grader again. He attended school up until 3 weeks ago; when his migraines came back full force. His doctor works with us. We increased one medication and tried 2 immediate relief migraine medications ; which did not work. His doctor said she would fill out HH form. I feel lost after his experience last year. I live in small town FL. What to do?


My daughter goes 4 hours to school to take her main courses. This is doctor recommendations based on her chronic condition. She isn’t on a IEP program because she takes her main courses at school and electives on FL virtual school since the RIP program doesn’t provide electives. The thing is Florida virtual is as or more demanding as regular school. She is always falling behind on school work. She is going through a period where her condition is unstable and her lymph nodes are getting swollen every two weeks making her go through nasty colds due to her stress. She is an over achiever. She isn’t a lazy student and right now she has all B’s but with a bunch of late work to turn in. I’m asking if is possible to take her electives away. The school says that’s not an option. They aren’t working with her. What I should do?


My daughter has been to court already for “truancy”. In the first semester there was some “discipline” problem. She made up all the hours she had missed in school;it was my decision she made them up at the school even though the school offered to take into account the 2 hours of tutoring she was doing every day. The second semesters she has some real health problems. Altogether she was within the requirement in hours.
I have all of the documents ready to show to court to have her case dismissed except the most important:the sheet signed by the teachers showing all the make up hours. Now the school is trying to say, don’t have it, don’t know about it. My daughter ended up being put on 6 months probation for no reason.The probation doesn’t bother me on itself except that it would be on her record and could be a problem.


What do you do if you’ve requested a medical plan from the treating MD and they refuse to write one. I’ve asked two different doctors and they state that my sons needs should be taken care of in his IEP. Why would an MD be reluctant?

Randy Henson

My wife and I are both working parents. My son has had stomach issues for a few years now. We have taken him to childrens mercy and they scoped his stomach and found nothing just saying he has a slow digestive tract. He vomits up to 10 times a day. Our family doctor is in touch with his school, we even met with his teacher and principal. They said they would do what they can to help. He does not run any fever. In kindergarten and 1st/2nd grade we had no issues with the school. Now he is at a different school in the same district. They sent him home yesterday with extra homework and he asked why. The teacher said we were taking him somewhere. The principal decided to declare him Home bound! We have an appt in St.Louis to try to find the issue. Isn’t this discrimination and can they do this?


My daughter is in the court system for truancy and we have proven by drs that she has anxiety and panic disorder but they are bullying us and threatening to still send her away. I need help. We are getting a 504 plan now but the courts are still not believing she has a problem.


Hi, i am a stay at home mom for 2 reasons, firstly i have 3 beautiful children, all with medical conditions that make each of them miss A LOT of school each year. My 2 sons have a hereditary bone disease that they inherited from me (Multiple Hereditary Exostosis) My 15 year old son has been having 1-3 surgeries a year since 4th grade and actually has to attend a “cyber academy” for him to keep up in school. He used to dream of being an athlete since he learned to walk but this disease has robbed him of his dreams. I also have an 11 year daughter with epilepsy, migraines and hypoglycemia. My toddler just started a preschool for him to get speech and physical therapy. All 3 of my children need a laptop so they can keep up with school when they miss for their medical issues. My older children are both on 504’s and my toddler is on an IEP.


Hello, my original post is 7Jennifer. I am curious to where do we find the responses? Secondly, After all that drama my 16 year old suddenly came down with a heart condition called POTS due to all the stress the school put her through.. I am now seeking a lawyer to show my daughter some justice. Any ideas are welcome! Thanks.


My daughter is in kindergarten and she missed 20 days due to pneumonia. She had doctor excuse for all of them. She was in the hospital on machines for that time. But they are trying to hold her back. Now she’s an honor roll student. Can they old her back?


my granddaughter has a 504 for chronic illness. She missed time because of this but did not go over the quota allowed. However at the end of the school day on Friday evening, 1 day before prom, she was advised she would not be allowed to attend prom because she had missed school. Because were unable to get through to the superintendent or The State Board of Education, she missed her prom. There is a real problem with the attendance officer keeping correct records. Of course she is heart broken. We intend to take this to the highest authority and feel that the responsible people be dealt with by the State Board of Education.


My son has asthma and the school knows about it. He has missed more than 30 days of school. The school could care less if my son’s having an asthma attack. Last week they didn’t given him his medicine. I went to a sarb meeting for my older two (9,7) At the end of the meeting they mentioned my son, stating that in 13 days my son will be eligible for SARB intervention. His asthma is really bad. We have a asthma action plan. I wanted to know if that’s something like a 504 plan? What do I do to help my son? thank u


My son has asthma and missed over 30 days school. they tell me I have to have doctor excuse every time. I have to get doctor orders for them with every thing and get a order over to school, then show them how to work his machine and count on them to make sure he had inhaler on play ground. He is being picked on on play ground while he had asthma attack, they did nothing. I went to my son’s school. no one saw me and I saw 4 kids picking on my son, shoved his face in snow bank and he got teeth knocked loose. I’m worried about school not doing their job. Now they won’t to fine me. what would you do next year? My son going to Christian school. Public school kids are mean to kids with special needs and medical problems Parents, what would you do?



Middle school student denied access back into school after being out sick and having surgery. The student was being treated and under doctors care. The school has harassed our family with residency verifications after dropping him while he was out sick. He has been released over a month but still will not allow him to get back to school And provide him with a quality & proper education. It’s outrageous!!! This breaking constitutional right and breaking privacy laws. I had to contact my attorney & we are prepared to take this to congress if we have to!!! This is completely out of control! We demand justice!!!


My son has type 1 diabetes. There is a specific form that we are suppose to fill out (for Texas) to excuse him from excessive absences and tardies due to his diabetes. I can’t seem to find the form…can anyone out there help me?


My 16 yr old has had recurrent health problems documented by her Physician. Last year while on Independent study she missed 5 days, approved and rescheduled by her Teacher. They took me to court and could care less about her illnesses and insisted she be put into their business academy. She attended for 5 days and her Dr put her back on home hospital schooling for the rest of the year! So, Back on independent study, she has been working hard as usual and got sick again, called the teacher and approved and rescheduled, informed to bring work next scheduled chk in. Well, she was diagnosed with the flu, bacterial tonsilitis and ear infection and they threatened me they are just going to drop her so I don’t get arrested? I called the district and was informed they dropped her right after court! I was accused of lying and humiliated.


can a school charge you with truancy even if you have a doctors note for most of the absences? my daughter got threatened with that today by the principal of her school. she has migranes, gets bronchitis, and has social anxiety. we live in Ohio


I have finally pulled my son out to homeschool. I have not dealt with anything near what some of you have. My son has been ill for many years and I just am not going to continue to jeopardize his health. the lack of compassion displayed by the school system and especially teachers is unbelievable. Additionally, why in the world should they have more information about my son’s health condition then they absolutely need? HIPPA does not apply to teachers. They make so many nasty comments about missing school to my son it was breaking my heart. Then when he was well enough to go back they want him to stay after to make up piles of work. I am a teacher living this has made me embarassed to say so.