Ask the Experts

Q: Can the School Expel My Child If He Has a 504 Plan?

If a child diagnosed with ADHD stops taking his medication, and grades suffer as a result, can the student’s 504 Plan or IEP protect them from expulsion? Can the school insist that he take ADHD medication in order to stay at school? Here, an education attorney explains your rights.

Boy talking to doctor

Reviewed on April 15, 2019

Q: “My son is in ninth grade and has a 504 Plan at a college prep public school. He decided to take a break from his ADHD medication and his grades have suffered. If his grades don’t improve, the school policy would be to ask him to leave the school. Do we have any rights that would help him stay at that school?”

A: First of all, a public school cannot require a student to take medication. However, a private school can simply say, “If he can’t behave, he can’t stay.” I generally recommend that children in need of school accommodations stay in public school because they are legally obligated to meet those students’ needs.

Your son’s situation is problematic because the school’s message could be interpreted as “he needs to be medicated in order to stay here.” While the school can’t require your son to take medication, it can make him leave on the grounds that he can’t behave or keep up his grades.

Perhaps the more important question is, why did your son go off of his medication in the first place? Since it clearly makes a difference in his performance, I would suggest going back to the doctor and discussing with your child and the physician why the meds weren’t working or why your son didn’t like them. There are plenty of ADHD medications out there, all with different side effects and positive effects, so it is most likely worth trying a new one.

This content came from the ADDitude webinar by Susan Yellin, Esq., titled “A Parent’s Guide to Changing Schools: How to Find the Best Match for Your Student with ADHD or LD” That webinar is available for free replay here.

Susan Yellin, Esq., is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Specialist Panel.

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  1. This response left LOTS to be desired. First, parents should know if you want the best legal standing for your child IEP’s provide that, whereas a 504b does not. Secondly, I found the question about “why did your child come of the medication” shortsighted, and it kind of reminds me of the old “breast is best” mentality back 30+ years ago. Mothers who could not breastfeed were quickly judged, and offhanded, shortsighted “advice” was in abundance!
    My almost 13-year-old was in a private school. She has ADHD. She had a 504b plan there. She did not want to take medication anymore. It made her feel awful in numerous ways. Her grades suffered. They could not tell me to put her on meds, and tried to be as supportive as possible. She went to another school and struggled as well. There, she had a teacher who actually said “I know you don’t want to take medication for your ADHD, but you have to know there will be consequences for that!” I decided to homeschool her. It has been amazing, and she is thriving! Anyway… homeschooling is not for everyone. Medication is NOT for every kid! I have a 9 year old as well who does take medication for his ADHD without any problems at all. Every child is different, and parents need to be able to have a sounding board to hear balanced insights along with empathetic encouragement. The person answering this question only offered 1 solution: Meds. Nope.

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