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Expert Q&A

Can the school refuse to let a child attend a party because they “can’t handle him?”

I was told not to send my son to kindergarten on a day they were having a “fun” activity day because the teacher didn’t think she could “watch/handle” him? Is this legal? Should I consult an attorney? He was shortly thereafter diagnosed with ADHD. He cried all day when i told him he couldn’t go to school that day. I felt and still feel horrible for not just taking him anyway.


Dear Melinda:

You report that you were told not to send your kindergartener to school on an activity day because the school felt they couldn’t handle him. Subsequently, your son was diagnosed with ADHD. Even if your son had not been diagnosed with ADHD, if he is old enough to be covered by your state’s compulsory attendance laws (kindergarten and/or school attendance prior to age 5 or 6 are not always required under state laws), he has a right to attend school even if he hadn’t been diagnosed with a disability.

The only basis for a school to exclude a child from attendance who is legally enrolled is to follow the procedures relating to suspension and expulsion. State laws may also allow schools to exclude students who do not have appropriate vaccines or certain medical documentation, which is not the issue here. Since your son had not done anything to justify suspension, he should not have been excluded.

Given that your son has subsequently been diagnosed with ADHD, you may wish to inform your school of the diagnosis if you feel that he needs additional services, supports or accommodations. You have a right to request that your child be evaluated to determine whether he qualifies for special education or for a Section 504 plan (which can provide for services or accommodations). If you make a request for evaluation in writing, the school may agree to the evaluation. If they agree, they must discuss with you what testing is needed and obtain your written consent for the evaluation. If they feel an evaluation is not appropriate, they must notify you in writing that they are refusing the request, the reason for the refusal, and inform you of your right to request an impartial hearing to challenge the refusal of the request.

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