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

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 Medical Review Panel.

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