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

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

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01/30/2016 11:18 pm

School insisted my child had adhd. by 1st grade i tried to tell them i didn’t think that was the problem. by 2nd grade vyanse was making her throat hurt and throw up so i refused to give it to her. then they threatened to fail her. i refused so i feel they just put her in the back of the class and did not even try to educate her. by 4th grade they put her in special ed and psychiatrist put her on amitriptyline. she was not eating lunch. by the end of 4th grade she had severe stomach aches. now in 5th grade she has had a burning stomach. i requested at iep she have a water bottle and snack and was told… Read more »

01/20/2016 11:28 am

My son lost all credits for his classes last semester. He is being asked to do 65 hours of community services, all because of Texas compulsory attendance laws. He is in 504 for Migraines and misses a lot of school, is under neurologist’s care, and even has to get infusions at hospital often. This is discrimination — has this area of law gone anywhere since this article was written? I have calls into the area OCR and TEA but no one is calling me back. He is in all pre-AP and AP classes and has managed to keep all A’s because he works his butt off when he is healthy. And now this —– it is punitive! Are there any published opinions from hearings or… Read more »

02/05/2016 10:40 am

I dealt with the Dallas OCR office for years. They will not act. Save your time. The same applies for TEA. TEA will ALWAYS defend school districts. Most school districts simply don’t care about the laws and/or they don’t know the laws. My advice: learn the laws and go to work on the school. You may need to hire an advocate.

01/12/2016 10:18 am

This is a great article and thread My heart goes out to you all. My son is on special ed due to cerebral palsy. And developmental delays. He stayed home for almost a year due to back pain which led to a need for surgery finally.He had a chair pulled away while attempting to sit down at an after school program. We kept informing the vice principal of his absences and why and provided MD documentation but we were referred to ACS. After their investigation the case was deemed unfounded but the whole process was very stressful. After we were followed by preventive services. Though we could have benefitted from other services no help was ever given. Only visits. Though I am disabled with several… Read more »

12/07/2015 12:43 pm

Do private schools have to abide by these laws as well?

11/23/2015 1:27 pm

My grandson has missed school because he has chronic sinus infections even though he has already had sinus surgery. The school reports him truant. they want to expel him. We need help.

11/14/2015 4:33 pm

my daughter who has perfect grades not one disciplinary issue her intire life suffers from type one diabetes was dragged in to a truant officers office and ask if she was sexualy abused on drugs and in a street gang because I my wife refused too sign a paper that said she would never be late or absent again she only missed 4 days in 6 months from sugar to high in the morning she couldn’t function correctly the school retaliated because I stood up to them with her 504 plan this is how schools roll

10/28/2015 1:40 pm

My daughter 8yrs ago had a brain mass we had it removed successfully thank goodness but scince then she has been having chronic migraines and has been missing alot of school because of them and we have taken her to specialists and they verified that she does have them. This last year was the first time we had srs called on us for her missing school so we went to court and I guess won and thats when we first heard of a 504 plan which we stuck to and so did that school. Now shes in a different school same 504 plan but from what our daughter tells us there not following it and not believing her that she has headaches shes being forced… Read more »

01/20/2016 11:32 am

Going through similar with my son — see above. Try to resolve with your 504 coordinator by having a 504 meeting. Other than that — a complaint? I finally had good luck with them believing my son when I wrote a lengthy email to all the teachers in which I detailed my son’s medical history, told them these things are real, and told them an action plan for when he gets them. I also just yesterday heard that I can maybe add a “medical plan” to the 504. I am going to look into this — that might help with the believing part too!

10/23/2015 7:29 am

My son suffers from EDS Dyspraxia dyslexia anxiety. Due to this he has only 50 percent attendance for this term. e has attended many hospital and doctors appointment which the school knows about. they do nothing to help him they don’t want to understand his problems. we have had nothing but grief from them and now they are threatening us with board of governors

10/15/2015 5:02 pm

My child was throwing up at school and was refused the right to call me. I had picked him up the day before because he was out of uniform when we arrived home he was sick so I did not take him back to school. The principal had told him to be back at school by a certain which of course did not happen. I called the school to tell them this. The principal told my son he had lost his trust. Also I was told that unless he had a dr excuse he would be expelled. I am not sure how to handle this situation but I am upset.

09/25/2015 7:03 pm

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?

08/13/2015 12:22 am

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.

08/11/2015 4:54 am

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)

06/18/2015 2:30 pm

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… Read more »

11/14/2015 4:39 pm

had a similar situation only the school used cps in retaliation insinuating my daughter was abused on drugs and in a street gang and neglected at home for missing 3 days due to high sugar shes 504also this retaliation came a day after my wife refused to sign a school contract that stated she could never be late or absent again

08/13/2015 4:45 pm

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

05/06/2015 12:01 am

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?

04/17/2015 6:54 pm

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… Read more »

11/02/2015 9:38 am

My daughter has type 1 diabetes and hqw a 504 plan that covers all her absences. She went to a charter school then switched to a public school and had 504 plans with both schools! A 504 plan should be very specific and detailed. You also need a school plan from the doctor. Lastly you need to educate the teachers and other staff member about type 1 diabetes. This will be a fight but you need to protect you kid!

11/14/2015 4:45 pm

had the same situation only the school retaliated using cps the truant officer insinuated she was being abused on drugs and in a street gang my daughter gets all A s never has been abused has one close girl friend never tried drugs and has not one disciplinary charge her entire life this all happened one day after my wife refused to sign a contract that stated she could never be late or absent ever again she is 504 also

05/07/2015 11:26 am

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… Read more »

11/14/2015 4:52 pm

exact same problem only after I stood up for my daughters rights the school retaliated making crazy accusations of neglect abuse drug abuse even asked if she was in a street gang she has perfect grades not one disciplinary issue in her life and we live in a rural town that don’t even have gangs told them her gang was the ADA im prepared to go all the way to the supreme court the intimidation and accusations are irreprehensible

04/07/2015 7:55 am

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… Read more »

03/05/2015 7:24 am

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?

08/12/2015 11:59 pm

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.

11/05/2015 1:02 pm

We rented a home for almost 3 years and we were sick and didn’t know why. I took my daughter to an alternative place mold showed up. That’s when I got the house tested sure enough full of it. My son suffered severely after moving out of it. Now my son has acid reflux and anxiety real bad. My daughter has IBS. And we have been out of it almost 3 years this month. My daughter was an honor student and now from not being treated fairly, is struggling to maybe graduate. It has been such a nightmare. And to top it the landlord got away with it all! Could careless if we are still alive. I am sad because I have always tried to… Read more »

02/22/2015 12:36 pm

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?

02/15/2015 6:18 pm

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… Read more »

02/09/2015 7:50 pm

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.

02/03/2015 3:52 pm

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: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/parents-and-kids/diabetes-care-at-school/written-care-plans/ 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. http://www.wrightslaw.com/nltr/11/ss.short.course.htm

07/18/2015 2:05 am

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.

02/03/2015 1:52 am

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… Read more »

01/26/2015 2:16 am

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.

11/14/2015 6:30 pm

so true besides schools are not teaching correctly that’s why 18 year olds are unable to make change for a dollar with out doing coremath

12/19/2014 4:07 pm

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.

12/16/2014 11:25 pm

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?

12/16/2014 9:22 pm

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

12/05/2014 12:06 am

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… Read more »

12/01/2014 9:16 pm

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… Read more »

11/18/2014 1:13 pm

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… Read more »

11/15/2014 10:29 am

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 ?

11/03/2014 3:44 am

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.

10/17/2014 10:45 pm

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

10/07/2014 3:13 pm

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… Read more »

10/02/2014 1:43 pm

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… Read more »

09/21/2014 1:14 am

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… Read more »

09/17/2014 4:52 pm

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
09/11/2014 6:21 am

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… Read more »

09/10/2014 10:19 pm

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.

08/28/2014 12:09 pm

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… Read more »

07/23/2014 9:14 pm

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.

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