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

06/09/08
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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167 Comments on "When Schools Punish Sick Children Who Miss School: A Game Plan"


Jackie
04/17/2015

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.

Lily
04/07/2015

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.

R
03/05/2015

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?