Guidance about Temporary Absences of Students with Disabilities

This information provides guidance about students with disabilities who are absent for part of the school day to receive treatment from a health care professional. This information only applies to students with disabilities who receive special education and related services to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE).   

Under Texas Education Code (TEC) §25.087(b)(2), a school must excuse a student’s temporary absence resulting from an appointment with health care professionals for the student or the student's child if the student begins classes or returns to school on the same day of the appointment.   

In a 2001 "To the Administrator Addressed Letter,” TEA advised that school districts cannot consider regularly scheduled daily or weekly absences to get ongoing treatment for a chronic health condition related to a student’s disability as “temporary” absences.  This guidance continues to apply. Subsequent amendments to TEC §25.087, however, added a provision relating to students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 

Specifically, TEC §25.087(b-3)  provides that a temporary absence includes the temporary absence of a student diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder resulting from an appointment with a health care practitioner to receive a generally recognized service for persons with the disorder. This type of appointment includes applied behavior analysis, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. The intent of this amendment was to clarify that these types of absences must be excused as temporary absences under TEC §25.087(b)(2). Thus, a school must excuse any absences that fall within TEC §25.087(b-3). 

Note that the provisions in TEC §25.087 do not alter a school’s obligation under federal law to provide a student with a disability a FAPE. If a student has recurring absences, the student’s admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee should address the issue when developing the student’s individualized education program (IEP). Furthermore, the ARD committee must be mindful that 19 TAC §89.1075 requires the following: 

  • students with disabilities must have available an instructional day commensurate with that of students without disabilities; and
  • the student’s ARD committee must determine the appropriate instructional setting and length of day for the student and include them in the student’s IEP. 

The ARD committee, therefore, has the authority to decide whether to shorten a student’s instructional day, and, if so, how to shorten it. The ARD committee’s deliberation of this issue should include meaningful input from the student’s parents. 

When developing an IEP for a student with a disability who has recurring absences resulting from receiving treatment from a health care professional, the ARD committee’s considerations may include the following:  

  • how the ongoing treatment for which the student will be absent is related to the student’s disability; 
  • how the recurring absences may affect the student’s educational program needs; and 
  • whether any program modifications, including a modified instructional day or week, will be necessary to accommodate the student’s need to be absent.   

A student whose absence is excused under TEC §25.087(b) may not be penalized for the absence and must be counted as if he or she attended school for purposes of calculating average daily attendance. Also, the school district must allow the student a reasonable time to make up missed school work. If the student satisfactorily completes the school work, the day of absence must be counted as a day of compulsory attendance. The ARD committee, therefore, should consider the expected length of the student’s recurring absences and determine how the student will make up missed work.   

Even when a student’s absences are excused, the student is subject to TEC §25.092, which conditions credit for a class on a student’s attendance for at least 90 percent of the days a class is offered. This provision is commonly referred to as the “90 percent rule.” Finally, TEC §25.087(b) should not be construed as creating a “dual enrollment” option (the option to concurrently enroll a student in a public school and a private school) for students who are in kindergarten through twelfth grades. The statute merely allows temporary absences for part of the school day to attend appointments with health care practitioners.