With doctor’s appointments, therapy visits, and days where they’re just feeling sick, many children with disabilities or special health care needs miss a lot of school. In 2015, Texas came out with new attendance rules (rules about when your child has to be in school), including truancy rules for unexcused absences. Some of these rules help your child get extra time and support to make up work. And others, like the 90% rule, may mean that you need to work with the principal or a team from the school so your child can get credit for their classes.
Tips for Managing Missed School
Missing too much school can be hard on your child. Here are some ways that other families have made it easier to keep track of missed school time:
- Email, call, or send in a signed note on the day that your child misses school. The school will excuse an absence (it won’t count against your child) for certain reasons like health care appointments; absences that are not excused (unexcused) can add up and cause problems if your child has too many. You can find out more about these rules on My Texas Public School’s attendance page.
- Get a note from the doctor or therapist to prove that your child was at an appointment. You can keep copies of these notes in your child’s care notebook or school records notebook.
- You or your child can keep a journal of how they were feeling on days when they couldn’t go to school but didn’t go to the doctor.
- Try to get to know the attendance clerk early in the year. Tell them about the work your child is doing to keep up before it becomes a problem.
- Ask the teacher for emails or calendar notes to mark times when your child has done extra work or gone to office hours to make up for missed class time.
Here are some tips for helping your child keep up with schoolwork:
- Encourage your child to turn in absence notes as soon as possible and to ask their teachers how they can make up work.
- Talk to the teachers and principal about your child’s absences before your child goes below the 90% attendance mark (this is explained below). If you start planning early to make up work, it will be easier for your child to get credit for their classes.
- Ask for reduced amounts of homework in your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan if they have one; they may still be able to learn everything with less homework.
- Some schools ask teachers to post homework and assignments online. If your child’s school does this, you can log in to check on their homework assignments.
- Ask the school to set up a homework buddy for your child. This helps your child stay on top of coursework and stay in touch with friends.
Our page on building relationships at your child’s school has other ideas that might help you and school staff be on the same team.
What the 90% Rule Means for Your Child
The Texas attendance rules say that a student has to be in a class at least 90% of the time if they want to be sure to get credit for that class. This rule applies even if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan.
The average school year is 180 days. So, your child can only miss 18 days of school or 18 days of a specific class (or 9 days if they’re on a semester schedule) before the 90% rule affects their class credit.
For elementary school students, this means they could repeat a grade if they are in school less than 90% of school days. A middle- or high-school student might have to repeat a certain class if they didn’t attend at least 90% of the days of that class. You can talk to your child’s school. Or your school district might also have more information on their website.
How do you keep your child from missing this much school? Here are some ideas:
- If your elementary- or middle school-aged child has an appointment with a doctor or therapist, but goes to school for any part of the day or attends any part of a class, they get credit for being there the whole time. Think about that when making appointments.
- Try to schedule appointments during classes that your child doesn’t need to get credit for in order to graduate or go on to the next grade – like gym, electives, or lunch. Then, they might not have to repeat the class even if they miss too many days.
- Switch between morning and afternoon appointments so your child doesn’t miss the same class all the time.
- Ask if your child can go to their teacher’s office hours to make up for a missed class.
What to Do if Your Child Attends Less Than 90% of Their School Days
Even if your child has missed a lot of class or school and you’re worried about credit issues or the 90% rule kicking in, there are still ways for them to get the credit they need. It’s important to get in touch with the school to come up with a plan.
In some schools, you just work with the principal. In others, there is an attendance committee that includes the principal, attendance clerk, and maybe the school counselor or other staff too.
Some things that could go into a plan to get credit might be:
- Additional work
- Tutoring or study hall time
- Going to office hours
- Afterschool SAT or ACT test skills practice
- Taking another class after school, on Saturday, or in the summer
If your child has missed more than 25% of a class, the school will send you a letter asking you to come to a meeting or to write a letter explaining why your child has missed so much school. You can bring the notes from your child’s doctor and your other records of why they missed school to that meeting or include copies with your letter.
Even with your best efforts, your child is going to miss some days of school for important reasons. While it might take some time and work to get class credit, we want to be sure you know that the missed days don’t have to keep them from moving forward with their education.