Rochelle’s Special Education Tips
Missing in Action-Violation of the Compulsory Attendance Law
Maryland has a compulsory attendance law, found at Section 7-301 of the Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Every Maryland school system has a process in place for dealing with truant students. Why, then, is it not uncommon to find that exceptions are made for students with IEPs? Or that the usual procedures for dealing with truant students are not followed for students with IEPs? Of course there are exceptions to school attendance for students who are physically ill. If an illness is protracted, the student should be receiving Home and Hospital Instruction, but only if the student qualifies. (Always check the credentials of the professional signing the Home and Hospital form.) The problem is when parents claim their child is too anxious or school phobic to attend school. When the never-ending absences start, do not ignore the compulsory attendance law. Make sure your procedures are followed. Send home the warning letters. If things do not improve, hold an IEP team meeting. Get a plan in place to transition the child back to school. The child may need to be in a regional or nonpublic program for students who are emotionally disturbed if the anxiety is so heightened that the child really cannot come into school. If the parents do not cooperate, continue to follow your truancy procedures, which includes referral to the authorities. Unfortunately, it happens that sometimes the problem is that the parent may be enabling the child to stay home as that meets the parent’s emotional needs. Or the child may act out aggressively at home if required to attend school and it is just easier to allow the child to stay at home. In some situations, the child is being put to work to help the family’s finances, such as to help out with a daycare business. The cases are always complicated. The important thing is to remember you have two obligations: (1) to follow the compulsory attendance law and (2) to address the emotional needs of a student who is unable to attend school due to an emotional disturbance.
The annual LSA/MABE Special Education Update is scheduled for May 26, 2017, at the Anne Arundel County Public Schools. A link to register is provided below.