Do I Have to Pick Up My Child with Special Needs Every Time the School Calls?

Could Homeschooling Be the Answer for Your Child with a Learning Disability?

When your house telephone or cell phone rings between the hours of 8:00am-4:00pm on school days, does a feeling of panic or dread overcome you, believing that your child’s school is calling?  If you answered yes, then you are not alone. That time, when our special needs children are in school, and out of our sight, makes our imaginations run rampant. Seeing the name of the school on the Caller ID, makes our heart stop, and sets our imaginations into overdrive.

Many times the reason for the call is to come collect our child with special needs because he/she is requesting to leave, the school doesn’t feel like dealing with them, or he/she doesn’t want to do the assignments.

Working and non-working parents alike are forced to scurry to school in the middle of the day to pick up children for issues that the school could have typically handled internally. These repeated pick-up calls beg the question as to whether the school can legally require parents to come get their special needs children before the school day concludes.

It Depends on the Situation

The short answer to the aforementioned question is it depends on the situation.   Your child has the right to attend school. Students can only be kept away from school if they have been officially suspended.  Further, suspension should always be a last resort.  The schools should always try different interventions to help your child before resorting to a suspension.

Question #1: Has he or she been suspended?

The first question to ask when you have been requested to pick up your child because of behavioral issues is whether he/she has been suspended.  If he/she has not been officially suspended then he/she cannot be removed from the school by the administration.

The school, when they call you for a pick-up, in essence, is requesting that you voluntarily take your child home when there is a behavioral situation that doesn’t warrant suspension. Schools are required to provide your child with the necessary supports to benefit his/her education, and schools must find a way to deal with your child’s behavior.

If behavior is an on-going issue, then discussions must be had to find the proper placement for the child.  Schools cannot give you conditions of attendance or even mention or suggest the use of medication for your child.

A meeting is required

Again, if behavioral issues related to the disability continue to persist, the school needs to meet with the parents and IEP Team and determine the best course of action. School is challenging for special education students and some would rather be at home than school. These students quickly learn the behaviors that will get them to be picked up early and will effectuate those behaviors more frequently.

School is the best place

The best place for a child is in a school setting with other children. Calling parents for early pick-up is a quick route for schools not wanting to deal with the underlying issues and causes. School personnel and professionals have far superior training in dealing with behavioral issues stemming from disabilities than most parents do.  That is why school is the best place for your child during the school day.

Federal and State Law Requirements

Most states have enacted laws or regulations requiring that each student’s school day be a minimum amount of hours per day, per year.   Under federal and state law, disabled students must be afforded the same opportunity to participate in and benefit from instruction and other education-related services that are equal to those provided to nondisabled students.   The ironic part is that the school day is being routinely shortened for students who can least afford it.

The 2 Big Questions to Ask

There are obviously certain situations where you are glad the school called and you are happy to extricate your child that day from a very precarious position.  Once in a while is fine.  Daily, weekly, and/or monthly calls are not acceptable.  When you get the phone call from the school requesting you pick up your child, immediately ask:

  1. Is he/she being suspended?  
  2. Has he/she been physically injured or harmed?

If the answer from the school to the two above questions is no, you are not required to come running to the school.  You are not being callous or un-caring, you merely want your child to be educated like all the other students in the building.

Early Dismissal

Schools in the past have been cited for the early dismissal of disabled students.  “Packing up” disabled students early, before school is dismissed, deprives them of educational benefit and allows for them to be treated differently than nondisabled students.

There is no basis for shortening the day of an entire classroom of disabled students. When I use the term “early” I do not mean five minutes, it is typically 30-60 minutes early. Your child is the consumer, don’t let he/she be deprived of valuable education time because its more convenient to get them packed up early.

Needs still not being Met?

If you have attempted to discuss these concerns with your school’s administration or IEP team, with no resolve, your next plan of action should be to file a state or federal complaint.

Michael Dorfman

Written on 2014/05/27 by:

Michael Dorfman

Michael R. Dorfman is an attorney and partner at Nykanen Dorfman, PLLC in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  In his special education law practice, Michael represents students and their families when there is a conflict with the school district or when an appropriate education is not being provided.