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Doing Your Homework
Child Has Health Problems, School
Reports Him Truant

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My child has asthma, and his school continually sends him home. Now they have reported him truant. Where do I look for help on this matter? Wrightslaw shows me nothing. HELP!!

Sue Responds

If the school has sent your child home because they think he is ill, they can't very well say he left school on his own and is truant. One situation rules out the other. You need to take steps to document that your child's absences were due to illness. You also need to prevent this from happening again. Here is your plan . . .

Use School's Records

Use the school's records to straighten things out. Many people in the school keep records on children. School nurses keep health records on students. They also record visits to the nurse's office by students.

Step 1. Ask the nurse for a copy of the notes or forms she filled out about your child's visits to her office. If the nurse does not want to give these copies to you, ask your child's pediatrician to write a letter to the nurse requesting that she send the information to him/her. Then get the records from the doctor. Depending on how the school keeps track of these visits, these notes should show that your child was sent home because he was too ill to attend school.

This is step one.

Develop a Plan

You need to prevent this from happening again.

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. If there is a plan for your child, it does not seem to be working, or it is not being followed.

Step 2. The American Diabetes Association has prepared excellent model 504 plans and health plans. This format can be modified to cover other medical issues that arise at school. You will find a Sample 504 Plan (8 pages) and a Medical Management Plan (5 pages).

Download the model plan and revise it so it applies for your child's needs related to his asthma. Consult with your child's pediatrician to make sure the plan is complete and covers all your child's health needs.

Keep one copy for your records. Make sure the pediatrician keeps a copy. Provide copies of the plan to the school nurse and the principal. (Meet with them in person to answer any questions they may have.) The plan will give them clear guidelines from the child's medical doctor about what the child needs from them in order to attend school. (The school's Section 504 coordinator may request a meeting to develop a more formal plan and an evaluation.)

When you have taken these steps, you will have documentation that your child's past absences were not due to truancy. You will also have a plan in place to reduce future absences.

Sue Whitney
Research Editor, Wrightslaw

Section 504, 504 Plans & Medical Conditions

Section 504: Summary of Rights l Section 504 on Wrightslaw

Diabetes and the Law - People with diabetes -- of all ages -- face discrimination at times. Children with diabetes often run into discrimination at school or day care. The American Diabetes Association has compiled information about rights and responsibilities, discrimination, and what you can do.

Know Your Rights! Three federal laws protect people with disabilities in the school and day care settings, IDEA, Section 504 and the ADA. These laws have successfully been used to protect the rights of children with diabetes.

Legal Protections. In spite of federal legal protections, however, children with diabetes sometimes face problems in getting the care they need in schools.

Section 504 Accommodations for Children with Diabetes - Describes protections under Section 504, what schools are required to provide, and Section 504 Plans.

Sample 504 Plan and Medical Management Plan from the American Diabetes Association

Asthma Initiative of Michigan

Asthma and Diabetes - Major Student Health Problems by Duff, Turner, White & Boykin, LLC (January 2003)

On The Front Lines of Asthma Education , Nursing professors teach children how to accept the condition, manage symptons and reduce risk factors.

To learn how to advocate for your child, read Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy the Special Education Survival Guide,

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.

Copyright © 2002-2015 by Suzanne Whitney.

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