School Absences due to Illness

Archived Responses: 

School harassing my kid for absences

April 2009

My daughter has a few chronic health issues, severe cramps, migraines, and joint pain. She hates to miss school but these conditions have caused her to miss about 2 days each month. She has made up the schoolwork for the most part and is at B's and C's in her classes right now. She is really trying to up the grades at least to B's before the end of the year. The problem is the pressure she is getting from her teachers. I normally fully support teachers and the school but she has been getting some inappropriate comments and attitude from them. One teacher implied that she missed school on purpose to avoid a test. Another said she will flunk out of Freshman classes next year if she is absent the same amount. (As if thinking about High School is not stressfull enough!). Then yesterday she was in the office and making a phonecall to her dad to ask that he bring some Advil to school because she was getting her cramps (I am talking pale in the face, throwing up from the pain cramps). One of her teachers spotted her and told her ''You'd better not be calling home 'sick''' using air quotes for ''sick''. She was in tears about this last night. So what is the deal with this school and the teachers? Is it the XX dollars that they miss out on when a kid is sick? Do I need to get a doctor excuse whenever she is sick? If they think she is faking, why don't they call me to talk about it? What do parents of kids with even more serious chronic conditions do? Do I need to yank her out of public schools and do home schooling? Thanks for letting me rant. Anonymous

Every year we would attend Back to School night and each year the principal gave the same talk, she once pointed to my husband and me and said that we could give this talk as well as she could because after 4 kids through her school we'd heard it often;-) She said something profound... she told a story of a parent walking by a classroom, seeing a teacher jumping on a desk and screaming at the kids... horrified the parent went immediately to the office to report the incident. The teacher being a petite thing, was standing on the desktops teaching the children dance steps yelling over the music. The principal promised ''I will only believe half of what your children tell me about you, if you afford me the same courtesy''

If your child is sick and misses school, the school doesn't get the monies from the state regardless of whether it's an excused absence; not sure if you've noticed but our schools are desperately underfunded. I think a huge part of this falls on you actually; for not communicating to the school, teachers and principal what the issues with your daughter are. Missing two days a month, is actually a lot of absences if you think of it quarterly or as a semester.

When our daughter was suffering from something; we immediately called her high school counselor and talked with her teachers to let them know what she was experiencing and what needed to be done. We did actually provide a note from the doctor. my 4 cents

First, I would like to recommend that you have your daughter assessed for fibromyalgia by a rheumatologist. Her symptoms sound a lot like my daughter's, who has FM as well as chronic immune system disorder, and as a consequence missed a fair amount of school. Second, I think that your daughter is suffering the usual fate of people with invisible disabilities. Many people assume that if they can't see that something is wrong, then nothing is wrong. The behavior of the teachers is inexcusable. You might talk to them, explain the situation, and say that your daughter is doing the best she can and that you would appreciate their support. It might not solve the problem, but it might start to educate them. Good luck to both you and your daughter. Jenifer
Sounds like you are expecting too much of the school. I know--my daughter is in her fourth year of public high school and I still haven't gotten used to the difference between it and her wonderful years in private school. That said, if you haven't already, you need to set up meeting(s) with the teachers and an administrator to get them on board with your daughter's issues, and you need to do this each year, or maybe even each semester. I would also recommend that if any of the health issues are new that you work on whether they could be triggered by school/class/test anxiety. With a complete picture, possibly including statements from her doctors, you should be more successful with the school. anon
Well, I'm sure you've been doing all you can to help your daughter medically because it sounds just awful! I would email all the teachers individually, and an administrator or counselor, to let them know what's going on. I don't think you can expect them to contact you (especially not in high school!). Ask your daughter to make sure she asks for the make-up work and to see if she can schedule times to retest if she's going to miss one. Also, let the teachers know that you would like to keep in touch with them about how she's doing. This is to show that you are a concerned parent, and hopefully, will bring up a sense of compassion in them for your daughter. You may need a medical note, but I wouldn't think that you would need it every time she's absent. If it's still a problem in high school you might need to do more to make sure she's staying on top of the work. Good luck! And I hope these health issues are temporary. anon
I had the same problems in HS, so did my daughter.

However she went to private school and they did hassle her a bit, but they also had a nurse and a quiet room where she could lie down with a heating pad, and then she could go back to class. She would call me to pick her up early and I had a doctor's note on file, which I would back up with a phone call when she had to miss the last class in the day.

I suggest seeing your MD, there are medications. Also I found Yoga helped. My daughter got relief by playing soccer. Some people like swimming. Threatening her will only increase the tension that makes the cramps worse. Maybe get a lawyer to write a letter. Both parents if available need to make an appointment and visit the school teacher(s) and administrators. If you have any officious relatives bring them too. Schools tend to pay attention when adult family members show up dressed in business attire with note-taking materials if not an audio or video recorder.

Parse the problem out - your daughter needs to get some relief with the physical issues - keep working with a doctor, a chiropractor, acupuncture whatever it takes. Let the teachers know you are working on the issues and they can choose to be part of the solution or one of the problems. Don't loose it front of them, but be very clear and strong. Also volunteer at the school as much as possible. Very hard to mess with the volunteers' kids. If you have the money buy classroom supplies. Secrets to life. well wisher

This is infuriating behavior from the staff and there's a way to put a stop to it. Contact the school's counselor or psychologist. Tell him or her you believe she has a medical disability interfering with her schoolwork.

My daughter has medical and emotional problems that caused her to miss a substantial amount of school too. She qualified for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) because of ''other health impairment'' (her chronic daily headaches and executive function deficits) and ''emotional disturbance'' (depression and anxiety).

As soon as you tell the school you suspect a disability, a series of legal protections kicks in, including psychoeducational testing. The school must come up with a plan for addressing her physical and emotional needs, including accommodations for her health problems. Call the Disability Rights and Education Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley for further information about your legal and civil rights in this situation. We worked with Ann McDonald-Cacho, who educated and strategized with us about how to deal with the school.

I'm an RN and also recommend you have a pediatrician check her, if you haven't already. If you've already seen a pediatrician, ask him or her about the possibility of an ''endocrine or gynecological consult''. There are medicines available to treat the menstrual problems that torment your child. Best wishes. Nancy