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November 7, 2001

TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:

The purpose of this letter is to provide guidance regarding students with disabilities who are absent for part of the school day or week on a recurring, regularly scheduled basis for the purpose of receiving ongoing medical treatment for chronic health conditions. The guidance provided in this letter applies only to a student with a disability who is receiving special education services that ensure a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) and has a chronic health condition related to his/her disability that requires the ongoing intervention of health care professionals.

Texas Education Code (TEC) 25.087 requires a school district to excuse a student's temporary absence from school for an appointment with a health care professional if the student commences classes or returns to school the day of the appointment. 129.21(l) of Chapter 19 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) further provides that in accordance with TEC 25.087, a student's absence for the following may be excused: medical, dental and psychological appointment; special education assessment procedures; and special education related services. The Agency has been asked to clarify how TEC 25.087 and 19 TAC 129.21(l) apply to a student with a disability who requests excused absences, ranging from one and one-half hours per day to one-half to three hours per week, in order to obtain ongoing medical treatment for a condition related to the student's disability. Neither TEC 25.087 nor 19 TAC 129.21(l) apply to this situation. Regularly scheduled daily or weekly absences cannot be considered "temporary" within the meaning of TEC 25.087.

Instead, the student's admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee should address the issue of the student's absences when developing the student's individualized education program (IEP). Section 89.1075(d) of Chapter 19 of the TAC provides:

Students with disabilities shall have available an instructional day commensurate with that of students without disabilities. The ARD committee shall determine the appropriate instructional setting and length of day for each student, and these shall be specified in the student's IEP.

When determining the appropriate length of day for the student, the ARD committee's considerations regarding its review of relevant medical information should include: 1) how the ongoing medical treatment for which the student will be absent is related to the student's disability; 2) how the recurring absences may affect the student's educational program needs; and 3) whether any program modifications, including a modified instructional day or week, will be necessary to accommodate the student's need to be absent.

Finally, in making modifications to the instructional day or week, the school district ensures, through the ARD committee, that the student will be counted as a full-time enrollee and attendee without regard to whether the student's absences would be considered "excused" under TEC 25.087. Most important, the student is more likely to receive the full benefit of his/her FAPE when the ARD committee thoughtfully considers the full impact of the student's disability, including the need for medical treatment, on educational services.

If you have additional questions, please contact Karen Hattaway at (512)463-9720.

Sincerely,
David A. Anderson
General Counsel

A MS Word Version of this letter is available for download.

For further information on this topic, contact Karen Hattaway at (512)463-9720.

 

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