By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Life may seem rosy for most California public school students as they can attend school daily. They are there for most of the material, homework, tests and other school activities. However, if a student is missing a lot of school due to a long term illness and school attendance is becoming an issue, completion of a “Chronic Illness Verification Form” may help protect the student and parent from truancy and other issues.
Three Days Unexcused May Mean Student Is Labelled Truant
Truancy laws in California can be very heavy handed. They allow labelling of a student as a truant starting after they have either three unexcused absences and/or miss more than 30 minutes of class three times without valid excuse (See Education Code section 48260).
Most schools allow students to miss three school days without a doctor’s note, and only parent verification of illness. However a fourth missed school day means a mandated doctor visit just to get a note. If the parent does not get this medical excuse for that fourth school day absence, and beyond, the student may be stuck with an unexcused absence. Three of these unexcused absences may mean the student is labelled a “truant.”
Doctor visits are usually needed for absences beyond four days.
Fourth Absence Means Doctor’s Visit or Unexcused
What happens if the child has an illness which keeps them out for a week of school at a time, and it is a chronic condition, such as cancer, a heart condition, debilitating stomach or pain issues, etc.? The parent is still forced to drag the student to see a medical doctor, to avoid truancy.
This is even the case if the parent already knows the student is truly sick from illness, but just cannot physically return to school. It can be tough on parents and on the student.
Options May Not Be Communicated by School
When a student has issues where they physically cannot attend school due to a long-term serious illness, the parent has options other than dragging the student to the doctor on the fourth day they are out of school. These options are not always communicated to parents by schools.
Parents have enough to worry about with a chronically ill child, and may not have the funds or ability to go to the doctor every time their chronically ill child gets sick.
Chronic Illness Verification Form Can Stop Need for Doctor’s Visit on Fourth Student Sick Day
One great option for parents is to have their doctor complete a “Chronic Illness Verification Form” which can be obtained from the student’s school. This form gives the parent the ability to excuse the student beyond the 3 days the schools normally allow. With a Chronic Illness Verification Form in place, the student will not get a truancy for the fourth day (or more) of school missed.
Chronic Illness Form Means Parents May Excuse Student
This form, once completed, allows a parent to excuse a chronically ill student from school WITHOUT having to bring the child to the doctor for medical verification each time they are sick and cannot attend school.
Form Must Be Completed by Medical Professional
Once the Chronic Illness Verification Form is completed by the student’s doctor, it is returned to the school, which may then validate the form came from the student’s physician.
Thereafter, the parent may excuse the student for medical reasons for an extended time period without having to go to the doctor. Work missed should be able to be made up. The child should no longer have truancy issues for parent-excused absences (fingers crossed as some districts may still try to pursue truancy for “excessive excused” absences).
Options Other than Chronic Illness Form
Other options for help with this type of situation are Home Hospital Instruction (HHI), as well as setting up a Section 504 Plan, or even an IEP (Individualized Education Program). However, while those may be pending or even not pursued by the parent, this form can still help a parent.
Chronic Illness Forms help avert attendance issues of a student who just cannot go to school due to a serious long term illness. They allow an already stressed parent to breathe a large sigh of relief that even though the student is very ill, at least a doctor’s visit is not needed every fourth sick day to avoid truancy threats at school.
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.