Excessive Absences Should Trigger Child Find

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Can the IEP team refuse to place a child in special education due to excessive absences, even though an evaluation points to the need for placement?

No, the opposite is true. “Excessive” absences should trigger the team’s Child Find legal responsibilities. The school district should be concerned about the reasons for the student’s absences and determine whether he has a permanent or temporary condition related to a disability that caused these absences.

There are many reasons why children miss school – children with disabilities often have medical problems, and feel demoralized at school.

Some courts have examined whether a district failed to explore the cause for a student’s excessive absences and the impact this would have on a student’s educational progress.

The law requires schools to locate, identify and evaluate all children with disabilities from birth through age 21.

The Child Find mandate applies to all children who reside within a State, including children who attend private schools and public schools, highly mobile children, migrant children, homeless children, and children who are wards of the state. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3))

This includes all children who are suspected of having a disability, including children who receive passing grades and are “advancing from grade to grade.” (34 CFR 300.111(c))

The law does not require children to be “labeled” or classified by their disability. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3)(B); 34 CFR 300.111(d)).

For more about the school’s Child Find responsibilities, go to https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/child.find.index.htm

Read The Child Find Mandate: What Does It Mean to You at https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/child.find.mandate.htm

  1. My son has a iep and has special attendance goals written in there. It states that he will attend school 40% of the time the 1st trimester and he has done so, but the school is taking me to truancy court. Is this legal? Are they violating his IEP?

    • Same thing is happening to me too in NH. I’m curious as to the answer like Jennifer is. I have been contacted by the truant officer and after speaking to me about my sons conditions which is chronic migraines the officer did find that he does not need chins. I would like to know what my options are as a parent. Our state says that if we get brought to court the judge could charge both of his parents $1,000 each and possibly a year in jail.
      Even with all the medical forms I have and proof of his condition as well as, a recommendation from his main doctor to allow him to do work from home is being ignored. My son is very smart he is in 11th grade and can teach himself just fine. I want to know as well can they refuse him doing work from home online? This is where the problem lies.

  2. In Oregon children often are not given assessments to find potential learning disabilities if their attendance is low. This seems counterintuitive. Is there a loophole in Oregon that allows this to be a guideline, or are their laws being broken? Does this vary from state to state? Thank you.

    • This is probably based on the state’s or district’s interpretation of 300.306(b) of IDEA regulations. ” A child must not be determined to be a child with a disability …. (1) If the determinant factor for that determination is– (I) Lack of appropriate instruction in reading …”

  3. In our case the student’s parent says she will not send her child to school unless he is classified. He has been in school 30 days this school year. Are we obligated to test this child?

    • Did you receive an answer to this. I’m in a similar position, except the child has an IEP already, but Mom refuses to send to school.

    • I am in a similar situation. Parents won’t send child to school, after last IEP suggested a different placement. Student is still enrolled in our school.

      • I believe that attorneys would tell you to reach out to the parents multiple times to try to determine the parent’s issues & to try to reach a way to serve the child. The school knows the child has a disability, & they have some responsibility as long as they live in the district.

  4. Although the testing shows my child has a Learning Disability, the IEP team refused to allow an IEP because my child has had “excessive absence” due to her 504 medical disability. What can I do?

  5. I am Special Education teacher, working 3 hours per school day. Which means that my students have a very limited time window / therapy session with me. One of my student’s has made one out of 5 classes in the last month. My question is: If this continues, will the student be technically eligible for Extended School Year services? I have brought this matter to my supervisor and building administrator and am waiting for their answer to this issue. jgimber

  6. Need advice on how schools can support student currently at home due to ptsd symptoms and homelessness issues. I have been working to support parent in resolving barriers (i.e. Trust of school. Social services, securing health benefits, legal issues, transportation, daily needs,etc) to student’s ability to return to school. But my district is concerned only with attendance and keeps threatening sarb action which only increases family anxiety and trust issues. They say he won’t qualify for home hospital and his 20 day independent home study contract is nearing an end. Wondering if I am able to solicit support by teacher on staff to provide instruction a few days a week at home or meet at campus if this will keep school attendance issues at bay until his doctor can meet with family and make recommendations for future needs?

  7. Kristin Whatever time is owed your daughter should be done by the school even if it has to be during the summer. You can check your school policy on this.

  8. My 13 year old daughter who was born at 25 ½ wks and developed “frequently relapsing steroid dependent nephrotic syndrome and FSGS” at the age of 2 (Has been on 5 toxic meds since the age of 2 to try to get her off of predinisone), none have been successful. Also has Asthma, steroid Induced type II diabetes, anxiety, vitamin D def, and chronic illness. She has 100+ days 7th grade due to 3 hospitalizations(1 relapse,1 sinus surgery,1 for c-diff disease), and illnesses,all documented “MEDICAL”,however,in public schools must be out 5 consec days to receive homebound services. Did recv homebound (3-4 times this year), howvr, took 7-9 days EACH TIME to implement once school was notified child would be out.Also, my daughter has many ‘intermittent absences’ therefore has lost countless hours of “teacher instruction”. What are my options? Anyone?

  9. Thanks for the post! It is true that excessive absences can be due to a variety of reasons. A lot of times it can be anxiety that the child may have about going to school. Weather it be a learning disability issue or a social issue it is important for the school to try to understand the facts of the student on a case-by-case basis.

  10. My child’s teacher allowed my son to be assaulted without trying to protect him or calling security. She merely walked away. Do I have to file a due process or do I file for a civil claim instead? Also, can you request monetary compensation for the assault as a resolution to the due process?

  11. Steve, did the school provide you with prior written notice for removing the aide? Reviewing their reasons can help in your advocacy to keep the services your child needs. When you understand the school’s position and needs, sometimes you can adapt your approach so it can end up a win-win. It helps to understand their point of view.

  12. Whatever the causes for “excessive” absences, the school needs to be figuring out what needs to happen so the child actually received an education. I have seen many children who have school phobias, burn out from “excessive” school failure, and mistrust of school staff because of mistreatment. Belittling a child for absences, for the inability to catch up following medical absences, or for lack of expertise in the material covered while the child was not there can make any child want to avoid school. The causes have to be determined, and then a positive support plan can be developed, whether a child qualifies for special education services or not. When the staff stops thinking of the child as a problem and starts thinking of the child who has a problem, solutions abound.

  13. This can be a complex & confusing area for parents & schools. As mentioned, some courts have examined the impact of the school’s failure to explore the cause of the child’s absences. However, IDEA regulations 300.306(b)(1) say that a child must not be determined to be a child with a disability … If the determinant factor for that determination is –Lack of appropriated instruction in reading …& math. So the school must make decisions regarding the cause of the absences vs the lack of instruction caused by the absences.

  14. Thank you Ted, I will read it. My son only needs help when he has a trusted adult in the class when PTSD is triggered or anxiety is high. 90% of the time the aide is working with other kids. We want an aide in the fall while he is transferring trust to the new teachers and new EA’s.

  15. Since January, my son has only been able to attend his 2nd grade class from 11:15-2:30 due to PTSD/Anxiety (abused by preschool teacher). He has severe trust issues with school related staff. The district won’t even consider placing his trusted aide (from 504 plan) in his classroom starting 3rd grade. They are removing the aide after June. We want this written into his IEP, they say no. The district/school does not seem concerned about his excessive absences. He is still at grade level. I home school him in the mornings.

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