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Best Attorney
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Category: Education Law
Satisfied Customers: 57
Experience:  Education Law attorney with over 18 years of experience.
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I am researching whether or not a public school has the right

Customer Question

I am researching whether or not a public school has the right to demand documentation proving a student's absence was due to medical reasons.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Education Law
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I feel it is a violation of the students' right to privacy, given that they are minor children and have a right to keep their medical information completely private. I wonder if HIPPAA and FERPA apply in this instance.
Expert:  Best Attorney replied 2 years ago.
Hi, how are you? My name is***** a very experienced attorney and I'm here to help.
You are correct that there are definitely privacy issues involved and in play in such a situation. That being said, a school is still entitled to require doctor verification of an absence due to illness if this is stated in their written attendance policy.
They cannot however, require that protected health information be disclosed. So, a note from a doctor saying "Jonny was seen at my office on 5/21/15 at 9:00 a.m." is fine and would have to be accepted by the school as sufficient to meet the requirement for an excused absence. The specific illness or medical condition cannot be required to be provided for strictly attendance issues.
I hope this helps.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
A note from a doctor is, in essence, a release of information. If the doctor is a specialist, a psychiatrist for example. If a parent does not wish to reveal to anyone that their child has seen a psychiatrist or other mental health provider or an OB/GYN or pregnancy prevention provider, I feel it's none of the school's business and that the note required does, by its very existence, reveal the nature of the child's healthcare needs.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I feel that the parent or guardian should be taken at their word in this matter. It is not the school's responsibility to determine whether or not the parent is being untruthful about the reason for their child's absence.
Expert:  Best Attorney replied 2 years ago.
On a personal level, I agree with you and completely understand, but I am giving you my legal opinion.
I would certainly make the argument that by disclosing the type of doctor protected health information is being released, but I can also tell you that their response will likely be that you don't need to provide that information. A handwritten note, signed by the doctor should be fine. You also have the option of not providing the note. They cannot require you to, but they can make it a requirement for an absence to be considered excused.
Right or wrong, legally the school has the right to determine their own attendance policy. You absolutely have the right to make sure your child's protected health information is not disclosed. But when you are affirmatively asking something of the school, like for an absence to be excused or for special education services for example, then they are entitled to ask for proof of the basis for the request. You always have the right to say no.
I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but I still hope it helps.

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