Can the School Deny Special Ed Services Because of Absences?

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I was told that if a child has excessive absenteeism, he cannot receive special education services.  The school is not allowed to evaluate a child who has not had adequate instruction due to absences?  What percentage of absences would deny special ed services?

Schools cannot refuse to evaluate a child who has frequent absences. This statement is incorrect.

“Excessive” absences trigger the school’s Child Find responsibilities under the IDEA.

  • The district needs to know why the student is absent.
  • The district needs to determine if the student has a permanent or temporary condition related to a disability that is causing absences.
  • The district should complete a comprehensive evaluation as part of the fact-finding process.

Child Find requires each state to devise a practical method to determine which children are receiving the needed special education services, and which children are not.

After identifying children who may need services, all necessary evaluations must be completed on these children, at no cost to parents.

Please read Excessive Absences Trigger Child Find Responsibilities here:

The article explains why schools can’t refuse (or aren’t “allowed”) to evaluate a child who has frequent absences.

Learn more about the Child Find Mandate: What It Means for You

More about Identification & Child Find.

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8 Comments on "Can the School Deny Special Ed Services Because of Absences?"

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We have a student who started sped assessment with the district of residence. He later transferred to us to complete it. However, we learned that the student has been out of school for 6-7 years as he voluntarily stopped out of school to work while he resided in another country. The assessment is being conducted. But won’t it be difficult to qualify for special ed learning disability when he has had so many absences?

Perhaps difficult, but not necessarily impossible. Depending on the student’s condition, a trained evaluator may be able to pick up on indications of a disability despite lack of educational experiences. It is also important to know what state laws say about what the schools must do for students who dropped out & are returning.


I understand, as a teacher myself, how frustrating that is. It sounds like either the mother was keeping the child out and/or not getting her medical attention. I am glad that absences must trigger an investigation in some places. It could be the mother was guilty of neglect for whatever reason. It could be that she was uneducated and didn’t have the means to get medical care for a sick child. I hated students being absent because it meant more work for me catching them up. And often the reason was parenting. Not getting kids up on time. But, sometimes there was another reason.

I am a special education teacher. I worked in a charter school. I had a student who had up to 100 days of absence a year. The mother jumped from school to school. When she received a letter stating the school district would bring her to court if she did not bring in a letter or provide a reason why her child was not in school, she would jump to another school. This happened over the course of several years and the child was in school no more than 1/3 to 1/2 of the school year. This went on over several years. I said that this was a case of excessive absences. She could not provide me with documentation from doctors that the child was ill. The school did not want to confront the mother but I did and she went crazy. I actually became fearful over the whole business.

The school’s response is likely based on their interpretation of section 300.306(b). “A child must not be determined to be a child w/ a disability..(1) If the determinant factor for that determination is– (i) Lack of appropriate instruction in reading ..(ii) Lack of appropriate instruction in math”. They are not seeing the difference between absences due to health problems & parents holding students out of school for homeschooling, or other reasons.

My daughter has autism, cerebral palsy , mitochondrial deficiency with IEP under autism. She has frequent absences due to medical and/or therapy visits and is on a shortened day due to fatigue issues from mito disorder. We have a physician letter documenting the Mito disorder and need for maximum 5 hour school day. School repeatedly requests that we increase the hours in her school day. Even with the documentation from the pediatric neurologist. The school argues the 5 hours doesn’t allow enough instruction time. Basically, our IEP meetings have not resolved this issue because school thinks our child can increase her hours. Her fatigue is a manifestation of her mitochondrial disorder and it certainly affects her learning. We thought that a child with IEP should also be protected by 504 Rehab. Act but it doesn’t seem so.

Disability and health problems go hand in hand! When the school district assesses the individual’s situation is a medical Dr with a background in disabilities involved, or are they leaving medical assessments up to the educators now?