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Expert Q&A

Can the school send a child home because he did not take his medication that day?

I want to know if the school system can make an ADHD child go home because he hasn’t had his meds that day. He wasn’t doing anything except not doing his work and it was either go home for rest of day or suspend him for a day.

Thank you,

Dear Susan:

Your question asks whether a school district can make a child to home because they haven’t had their medication that day. Schools may not condition participation in school on whether the child takes medication.

The decision to take medication is a private decision between the family and the physician. If a child is not taking medication, the school still has an obligation to serve the child and must develop alternative strategies for doing so that provide the child a free appropriate education.

If, as seems to have happened in your case, a child is sent home on a single day, for not doing their work, you should investigate whether other children who are not doing their work are sent home. You might also want to build into the child’s IEP or 504 plan a contingency or backup plan for what happens if, for whatever reason, the child is not medicated.

If the child is not causing disruption or problems to others, it would seem highly inappropriate for them to be sent home or threatened with suspension. Further, if the child is sent home involuntarily, it should be treated as a suspension, whether or not the school officially labels it as such.

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