Right to Education for Students Who Are Hospitalized: Legal Options
By: Natalie Trouard* and Amanda Glass, ACDL Staff Attorney
This is the final blog post in our three-part series discussing the rights of students to educational services while they are in the hospital. Today’s blog post focuses on the educational rights of students in the hospital and how to assert those rights.
What education is my child entitled to when they are hospitalized?
Even when a student with a disability is hospitalized, they are entitled to a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 (Section 504) from the school district or public charter school where they are enrolled. Although students may not be able to do schoolwork for some or all the time they are in the hospital, the school should still make available the educational services and resources listed in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.
There are numerous educational services and activities that students can engage in while in the hospital. For example, a parent could request that:
- The school provide the student with a laptop or tablet and access to online coursework while the student is in the hospital;
- The school provide suitable homework packets for the student to complete and turn in; or
- The school arranges regular times for a teacher/counselor/aide to visit, hold virtual meetings, or have phone check-ins with the student.
A school may not be able to provide all services listed on a student’s IEP/504 Plan while they are in the hospital. It also may not be possible for the student to engage in all the services in their plan while they in the hospital. However, the school is required to provide learning opportunities for students with chronic health problems while they are absent from school and to provide for the integration of students with chronic health problems into the regular education program as much as possible. Parents and guardians should talk to the school when a student is in the hospital to develop a feasible plan for the student’s ongoing education.
What can I do if my child’s school refuses to provide educational services during hospitalizations?
First, make sure you ask in writing for the educational services to be provided. You can write the letter using the template at the link included at the end of this blog post. Sending this letter informs the school of your child’s absences due to hospitalization and requests educational services be provided in that setting.
If your child’s school states it is unable or unwilling to provide any educational services to your child while they are in the hospital, point the school to Arizona’s chronic illness law, A.R.S. § 15-346, and the school’s own policies. If you continue to encounter resistance or failures from your child’s school, you can file a complaint with the Arizona Department of Education. There are links to directions about how to file a complaint with the Arizona Department of Education and to a template complaint below that you may use when filing this type of complaint.
*Natalie Trouard is a 3L law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law interning at the ACDL
 Most public school policies can be found on this website: https://policy.azsba.org/asba/browse/allmanuals/welcome/root
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