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Right to Education for Students Who Are Hospitalized: Arizona’s Chronic Illness Law

Accessibility, Education

By: Natalie Trouard* and Amanda Glass, DRAZ Staff Attorney

This blog post is the second in our three-part series discussing the issue of students being withdrawn from school and not provided educational services while they are in the hospital. Today’s blog post addresses protections under Arizona law for students with chronic health problems.

What is a chronic health condition?

Under state law, students with chronic health problems include students “who are not homebound, but who are unable to attend regular classes for intermittent periods of one or more consecutive days because of illness, disease, pregnancy complications or accident as certified by a health professional” and who have “a condition requiring management on a long-term basis as certified by a health professional.” Other examples of disabilities that fit the meaning of chronic health problems may include psychiatric disabilities or eating disorders that result in the student not being able to attend school for several days at a time.

What types of educational services are students with chronic health conditions entitled to?

Qualifying students with chronic health problems must be provided:

  1. Homework availability to ensure the student has the opportunity to keep up with assignments and avoid losing credit because of their absence from school.
  2. Flexibility in physical education activity requirements so that students with chronic health problems may participate in the regular physical education program to the extent that their health permits.
  3. Authorized absences from school for a student with a chronic health problem without the prior consent of the student’s parent or guardian.

How are students with chronic health problems protected under the law?

If a student’s disability means they might have to be in the hospital for long periods of time or on a frequent basis, a parent or guardian should talk to their doctor about whether the student has a chronic health problem that fits under Arizona’s chronic illness law. If the student does have a chronic health problem, then providing the school with documentation from the student’s doctor allows the student to be absent from school more than a general attendance policy permits without the risk of being dropped from the school’s enrollment.

If your child has a medical condition or behavioral health condition that may result in them needing to miss more than 10% of the days in a school year because they need to stay home due to illness, be hospitalized, or receive intensive outpatient care, consider these self-advocacy steps:

Find your child’s school’s policy on chronic illness – most public-school policies can be found on this website.

**Typically, the policy is labeled JHD.
**If you cannot find your child’s school’s policies on this website, ask a school administrator to provide you with a copy of the school’s chronic illness policy.

  • Reach out to your child’s school about getting a chronic illness certification completed. Ask your child’s school’s registrar, special education director, or special education case manager if they have a specific chronic illness form that your child’s doctor will need to complete.
  • If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, bring up the likelihood of frequent or prolonged absences during the next IEP/504 meeting, and ask for the team to come up with a plan for ensuring services continue when your child is unable to be at school in person due to their disability.
  • Take the initiative to get the medical certification completed by your child’s doctor and get the information turned in to the school to prevent inappropriate withdrawals or the school failing to provide work to the student during absences.

Check out tomorrow’s blog post, which is the third and final post in this series. Tomorrow’s blog post will further discuss the educational rights of students while they are in the hospital, and how those rights can be asserted.

*Natalie Trouard is a 3L law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law interning at the DRAZ.

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