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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My son missed 15 days this year so far. But all do to dental work or sprained wrist or strep throat. And 2 absences are do to him having dental work from an injury at school where his grown up tooth was broken in half do to the p.e teacher. His teacher and counsuler see he has characteristics of iep in reading and test taking as well as attention problems. BUT the don’t want to test him on thoes because he won’t be eligible for services do to absences. HOWEVER my sons grades are quickly dropping because he is struggling at school. At home I can get him to focus and do his work but at school they aren’t . This is FRUSTRATING he is in 2ND grade. ALSO I HAD AN IEP in reading and test as well.


I think the title of this discussion is misleading… there is a difference between evaluation and providing services. Yes, I will evaluate, but that does not mean that those absences won’t play a huge factor in meeting educational disability criteria – the main factor being access to educational opportunity. If you have excessive absences that are due to anything other than a chronic health condition, the student will not meet the criteria and they will consequently not be eligible for services. Even if the student meets disability criteria for an SLD for example, I can’t rule out that those academic deficiencies aren’t related to lack of consistent instructional opportunity. Just my two cents…


This is an issue for all states. However, in TX a student may be eligible for extra services as an at-risk student. This may be true in other states.


our daughter has chairi malition which she has a headache everyday she has days where she drags her self to school and a lot of time she has to leave early because of tiredness and the headache. Some days she just cannot make it to school.We have a letter from her doctor stating she has migraines which are not headaches.when she has one they send her to the school nurse.who acts like our daughter is faking it.she treats our daughter badly. she is missing a lot of school.They have a 504 person at the high school who is more concerned about her missed papers and her grades getting bad in some area.then following what 504 says the school has to do for our daughter. Like this weekend the school was to send her 8 papers she missed in one of the late classes she misses.They did not send the papers. The school is not following the 504 plan.


Your state parent training and information center can assist you with information that can assist you.


As a school psychologist, I have trouble gathering evidence to conclude one way or another for SLD cases how many absences are too many each school year, when the absences are not due to disability/health reasons (due to PARENT reasons). I would not want to label a child with a disability when they are perhaps just an English language learner who misses too much school each year because the parent doesn’t make them come (late elementary school). But I also wouldn’t want to deny services to a student who perhaps does have a disability, in addition to attendance issues. Any guidance on what counts as too many absences to conclude they haven’t received adequate instruction or what evidence we could gather for evaluation to demonstrate that the student’s struggles aren’t solely due to attend.?

M. Hay

Allissa, was your question ever answered? I have the exact question.


Some state education agencies may have taken a position on this. The federal dept. of education may have given guidance on this that I am not aware of. You can do a general google search or do one on their web site. The federal special ed office will answer letters sent to them. So this is an option for you.


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.


I have multiple kids that just skip….skip skip…some in excess of 60 days per year…No excuse, no doctors note, no parent etc…How can we teach a kid that isn’t there…we can’t. I too have been told that they can lose their status…Honestly, I can’t see a single reason not to do so with no explanation.


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?