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How to Protect Your Family Whe...

How to Protect Your Family When School Avoidance Has Become an Issue.

  • November 30, 2018

Having children has many ups and downs and as much as we prepare for having them, things do not always go according to plan. School avoidance is a very common problem that can be a slight bump in the road and correct itself quickly, or, in some cases, it can signify a more serious problem that is often overlooked. School avoidance (also known as school refusal or school phobia) is more than simply “cutting” school to have fun with friends or skipping an upcoming test; it is an aversion to school itself.

School avoidance can be difficult for a parent to diagnose as an issue since it comes in many different stages/forms/reactions including; tantrums, inflexibility, separation anxiety, avoidance, and defiance (personality traits found in most young children). However, the results of school avoidance have a huge impact on both the child and the parents. For the child, it could be a sign of depression, anxiety, bullying, substance abuse, etc. and for the parent, in addition to seeing their child suffer on a daily basis, can impact their career and financial situation.

What can trigger school avoidance?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, starting school, moving, and other stressful life events may trigger the onset of school refusal. Other reasons include the child’s fear that something will happen to a parent after he is in school, fear that she won’t do well in school, or fear of another student. As your child gets older, getting them to go to school can become more difficult simply due to their size.

As you have likely experienced, a common result of school avoidance is excessive absence, which can have legal ramifications for parents. In New York the laws aren’t as cut and dry as in other states, so, be sure to know what your district’s rules are on absence.  Under New York State’s “compulsory education” laws, every child between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school full-time. Unlike other states, New York doesn’t spell out a process for addressing the problems of students who are missing too much school, or even how many absences it takes to be considered a truant. Instead, state regulations require local school districts to come up with their own attendance policies.

You have identified your child is avoiding school, now what?

School avoidance cases can be complex to navigate. By now, the teacher, principal, school nurse and/or school psychologist is involved and up-to-date with your child’s situation. In theory, you should be working cooperatively to understand the needs of your child and how to help him/her to adapt at school.

As a first step, the school may attempt several interventions in the classroom and modify instructional practices before referring your child for an evaluation. If they haven’t, you can also request to have one done. A mental health professional can help explore if there are other causes or if there is a possible learning disability making school challenging or creating anxiety for your child. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives eligible children with disabilities the right to receive special services and assistance in school at no cost to the parents. You should be aware that excessive absenteeism may also lead to complications with IDEA eligibility determination, placement decisions and delivery of services, such as the location, frequency and willingness of the student.

“If you are finding that the school isn’t your partner or that they aren’t on board with getting your child evaluated, and/or helping them get the assistance they need, you may consider reaching out to an attorney who can help you and the school bridge the gap,,” Says Lorraine M. McGrane, Special Education Lawyer at SDG Law. “The school knows that legally they have to set up a comprehensive evaluation for your child and if they aren’t acknowledging that, or helping you to get there and are only interested in you getting your child to school, telling you that you need a therapist that you cannot afford, or recommending medicine you don’t think is the right fit, then you likely will need some assistance,” she adds.

It is very important that you know your rights if you have a dispute with how the school is handling your child’s special education and their (Individualized Education Plan) IEP. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at anytime at 845-298-2000 or via email at info@sdglaw.com.


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