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Consider These Key Elements When Serving Students With Medical Conditions

Special Ed Connection®

August 13, 2009

Cumulating “excused” absences for a student with a medical condition may not prompt staff members to refer him for a 504 evaluation unless you have set clear guidelines and trained staff to implement them, said Linda Yoder, a school attorney with Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford, Conn.

Here are some key elements school staff should consider when deciding how to serve students with medical conditions.

• Evaluation procedures. The Section 504 regulations do not impose a specific timeline for conducting evaluations. However, OCR has stated that districts must conduct evaluations within a reasonable amount of time. As such, develop guidelines for handling students with medical conditions who are chronically absent, advised Eloise McGarry, director of support services for Rutland (Vt.) City Public Schools.

To start, determine a set number of medical-related excused absences that, when surpassed, trigger a referral to a student study team, Yoder said. The SST then can determine if the student should be referred for a Section 504 or IDEA evaluation, she said. You might consider a 10-day cut-off point, but adopt a number that meets your district’s unique needs.

In addition to setting this number, train staff members, such as school nurses and attendance clerks, to follow proper procedures if they notice a student has reached the 10-day limit, she said.

• Homebound placement. Homebound placements are often deemed appropriate for students with disabilities who are unable to attend school for medical reasons, whether on a permanent or temporary basis. Complete the 504 process anytime you’re considering homebound or home-tutoring services for a student with a medical condition, Yoder said. This will provide proper documentation and also will help ensure the student’s placement is reviewed, she added.

• Medical data. Districts must ensure that placement decisions are made by a group of people knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data and the placement options. 34 CFR 104.35 (c)(3). More districts are developing consulting relationships with physicians to help them better understand evaluation data for students with medical conditions, Yoder said. In many cases, educators are asked to make medical decisions for students, so soliciting input from a consulting medical provider makes sense, she said. This person can help them determine when it is appropriate to place a student with a medical condition in a homebound placement and when it is appropriate to bring him back to school. A consulting medical provider also can weigh in on the appropriateness of accommodations and provide detailed information about a student’s condition, she said.

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