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

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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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I am in Pennsylvania, my daughter just received letter for a 504 plan, plus she has ongoing issues due to a concussion. This is all new to me, I’m losing sleep because I’m afraid they will fail her. Her school has what they call DAT so an auto fail for not attending. Can anyone tell me if there is an advocacy organization for parents? I feel I will need a helping hand.


I suggest starting with your state parent training and information project. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center They are an information center, but they will also know of advocacy organizations.


We are in the state of MD. My son is in 9th grade and has a 504 for chronic health issues that are yet to be diagnosed and the extreme anxiety this has caused. He also is in the CHIPS program which makes any absences related to his condition automatically medically excused. I am so appreciative to have these in place. But my question is ..can a teacher request to have a child transferred out of his class to another elective bc he feels that he cannot make up the clssroom participation points ? My son really enjoys this class and would be devastated if he cannot continue. I dont see why he cant do special projects or something. When my son is there he is able to fully participate. I did not think the schools were allowed to exclude a child on a 504 and He is still in PE so it doesn’t make sense.


My 12yr old son has bi polar disorder and was hospitalized for a month due to explosive behavioral issues. He is in an out of distirict placement and the school has failed him in health and wellness due to absences. I live in Massachusetts, just wondering what if any part of IDEA or 603 might support me to request the school not to fail him in this class.


Hi ,
my 17 year old daughter has a 504 for anxiety. The school was allowing me to send an email giving permission for her to leave school when her anxiety was really bad.
Today , i sent the email but the person who gets the email was in a meeting. The school did not call me or my husband and they told my daughter to wait until they heard from me or the woman who received the email. Well i was driving when my daughter text me and as soon as I saw it i emailed the other woman. My daughter said she couldn’t wait and knew i gave her permission, so she left the school.Now they want to give her in school suspension.I told them that they would just cause her to have more anxiety. Now they are saying she can’t leave without a parent or guardian to come and sign her out out. should i get a lawyer


okay, so my friend missed 1 day is school and her mom called in and explained that she was in the hospital. but the school still gave her a detention for truancy. and my sister was sick the other day and missed her first day of school, and my mom called in, but she still got a detention for truancy.
There is always some type of sickness going around the school making people really sick, but they still punish kids for being absent because of the illness.


The link to the American Diabetes Association model 504 plans and health plans is not working. It shows as an error. When I went directly to their site, it brought up insurance plans only. Can you suggest another route to access their 504 plan for chronic illness?

Thank you.

We’ve updated the link to the new links on the American Diabetes Association site. https://www.diabetes.org/resources/know-your-rights/safe-at-school-state-laws/written-care-plans/section-504-plan

Thanks for the heads up!


I think it is a legal absence if you are absent due to post concussion syndrome but my school doesn’t and makes go to urgent care just to get a note for being absent for more than 1 day and they don’t believe what you have to say and think that I am making this up when I notes in the nurses office saying I have post concussion symptoms and I am not cleared for gym. They think I am using that an excuse when I am in such I deep sleep because I am so tired that my parents can’t wake me up.


I have a 17 yr old daughter with NF1, asthma, hypertension, anxiety, depression and brain and spine tumors. She constantly is at one form or another of Dr at Akron Children’s hospital. She applied for the teaching program at TCTC where they were told before she was accepted that she had numerous health issues. They assured us that it would not be an issue they accommodate students with health issues. Now she’s being criticized because she’s missed 26 days of school due to health issues. All the she has Dr excused for. She was told w her iep she could attend their school till age 21 if she chooses to and pick a different program every year. Now being told having someone like her there isn’t fare to other students who could be there everyday in her place. I think its a lot of BS!


Robin – Are you connected with your County Board of DD? It sounds like your daughter may be eligible for services. If you are connected, your SSA should be working with you and a parent mentor or advocate from the Ohio Coalition (OCECD): https://www.ocecd.org/ContactaParentMentor.aspx

Your daughter has a right to stay in school until the day before she turns 22…if TCTC doesn’t like it, too bad – they are a publicly funded school!


Our son has recently had brain surgery. He is attending a few hrs a day as he is able but he is still recovering (it hasn’t been a month since surgery yet). We are in NC. He will have missed most of 4th quarter. Can he be exempt from the final quarter or will he have to retake all classes if he is unable to do the work before the end of the year. He did very well until his surgery, we are now only 6 weeks til the end of the school year. He is in the 10th grade and has an IEP. The school is being very understanding, I just need to know how this is usually handled before our meeting next week.


There is likely state and district policy and rules on this. Your district central office or state parent training and information center can help you find and understanding the options for the school and your child. The school should have a homebound program to serve students who are not able to come to school for medical reasons. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center


My son got mono a year and a half ago and is having severe complications in which doctors have now diagnosed him with AMPS Amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrom. This has led to him missing at least 30 days in which the state courts have ordered intervention from a Juvenile Officer. I feel like we are now being punished as have to take him to the doctor every instance he misses school just to get a doctors excuse while in limbo with doctors of what to do long term about his condition.


Every state has a Disability Rights agency to help parents with legal issues. I suggest your contact your state’s agency. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center


I think that this issue even goes into higher education facilities as well. Most City Colleges have instituted an absentee policy that students can miss no more than TWO classes in a semester and this includes student with disabilities. This violates everything and they were sued for it years ago but found a work around and changed it to participation but now its coming back as absentee. I have students who I work with who get solid A’s on their exams sometimes a B, do all the homework do everything including extra credit but then the instructor fails them or withdraws them due to absences even if its a chronic medical condition.


hello, my son has missed 18 days of school for being sick. we found out that he’s lactose and we are now treating the condition. NJ law you can only be out of school 20 days. he has kept up his grades and even made the honor roll. but the school is calling me in to discuss. I’m scared they will require him to repeat the grade. I cant find anything on the internet about being excused from school for medical reasons is there such a thing? I’m also worried what if he gets sick with something else we only have 2 days to spare and 3 months left of school..
any advice before I go into the school for a meeting? thanks


Many states have policies on excused absences. Try googling excused school absences in NJ for health reasons.


Does my son have an rights or is there any laws to dropping a course late in the school year if he suffers from depression, in the state of Illinois? He’s a senior and the only way out of a course that is thoroughly stressing him out beyond a normal range is to take a withdrawal/Fail? Is there any legal rights that would grant him a Withdrawal (W) on his transcripts??

Kelly, each state has laws and regulations governing special education & education. State laws can be different from federal law In some areas. Federal law does not address issues like dropping a class. If this is addressed anywhere, it would be in your state law/regulations. We can’t answer your question about whether your son has any legal rights, except in general terms.

If your son has an IEP or 504 plan, he may have protections, especially if the IEP or 504 plan provides for accommodations and/or modifications that address his depression. If he has an IEP or 504 Plan, is the school providing the accommodations and/or modifications listed?

I strongly urge you to request a consultation with an Illinois attorney who specializes in education / special education law. In most places, consultations are not very expensive but will provide you with accurate info about legal righs in your state and how to proceed.

We built the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities site that has listings for attorneys, advocates, evaluators, tutors, etc for each state – Go to https://www.yellowpagesforkids.com and click your state.

The Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA) has listings of their members. Info about their directory is here.


Hi child services are trying to take away my children due to frequent absences from school. My 14 yr old suffers chronic migraines causing her absences. She’s been hospitalized 2xs and in and out of the er alot. I also have an autistic 9 yr old that hates going to school and flat out refuses alot we have been working with school and child services and a social worker to get him to attend. We are also getting him wrap a round service to try to help. The schools report the absences and now cys is taking us to court to remove my kids. How can they get away with this when both kids have a disability?


Wraparound should help to educate the other community agencies, as well as Children’s Services about your family’s situation. It should help with both children, even if it is specifically convened for your son. Just be sure to cooperate and take advantage of any of the services they offer. You also need to find out if your son is being bullied. If you know other kids in his class or their parents, ask them…they always know what’s really going on in class, on the bus, in the lunchroom etc.


My child has missed 40 or more days of school because of chronic illness she been seen by several specialties had scoliosis surgery 3 years ago and after has been serving from unexplained abdominal pain every 3 weeks which keeps her out of school at times also suffered from eczema/allergies she’s always catch colds more often and can keep her at home too. I always notify the school what’s going on with her with doctor’s notes. So recently the school social worker call DCF on me now twice I explained show prove but it seems they don’t care just wants my daughter in school. Of course I want my daughter in school please help I’m at my wit’s end what can I do? Do I have parents rights and my child? Need advice.


My child is OHI. What is a good sample attendance accommodation statement that can be inserted into her IEP? Thank you


Not sure what you mean by “attendance accommodation statement.


If I do decide to homeschool my sister would she still be allowed to go to the career center for extra schooling for health science?


Legally they probably could, but it would depend on state, & district policy, & procedures.


i am a 14 year old high student and i have been getting very sick over the past 2 weeks. my mom works from 8am to 6pm and she has no time to take me to the doctors. i have a iep and health issues including PTSD ADHD asthma and more.my mom is upset because if she does not work she can’t pay rent and we don’t know anyone here really 2 help us and I just moved from NY.i missed 1 day of school but my mom is afraid to let me stay home and rest. I just barely get out of my bed and I keep waking her up with my coughs. if I miss more days of school she can get a fined. I don’t want that and she can’t play rent and a fine. please help if u have advice.


Contact your state parent training and information project. They will have information on your options with the school and your health issues. http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center


I have a kid that was in pre-k last due to missing days of school and now cause of the hurricane we relocated to a house temporarily he has ADHD ,allergies, asthma,etc he missed so many days of school almost 15 I asked for a transfer to stay in the same school they approved kid and denied the other other for attendance for being sick can they do that he has dr notes for all the days he was absent who do I need to talk to or call about this to get the problem fixed


If he is served by special education, or Section 504, you can contact the district coordinator/director for that program.


This did not help me. My daughter a teen was deeply harmed by campus violence drug and sex acts and violent attacks on innocent non drug abusing kids. At school if you dont act like a thug gangster or a drug dealer or a physically abusive violent criminal you are victimized. If you are wearing clothes not approved of by the teens that run the school if you try to participate in class if you are gay bisexual lesbian or transgender if you defend another student being viciously attacked verbally and or physically you then become the mob mentality focus until you feel like you should do what they say and kill yourself. It isnt heard at the school the staff is more concerned about making the campus a place where bad kids wanna be because they dont care at all about the good kids

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