My friend recently posted on Facebook that her daughter was forbidden to leave the school auditorium even though she had a doctor’s note that specifically gave her permission to go to the office if she had medical symptoms.
Despite the mother’s precaution, the teacher who twice denied her request was not aware of the note, and the rule-following child respected authority — even though she was having chest pains and a headache. The teacher did not know my friend’s child and told her to “tough it out.”
Many parents who have children with chronic medical conditions may falsely feel comforted by a doctor’s note on file at the school. But too many variables can happen to poke holes in the safety net. Unless children are prepared to advocate for themselves, they are at the mercy of the adult in charge.
“Normally if it was a classroom she would have just walked out,” my friend wrote. “But it was the auditorium. She didn’t think it applied and didn’t know what to do.”
Healthcare groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Diabetes Association recommend all parents of children with chronic illnesses have a 504 plan in place with their school. The school is mandated by federal law to follow the plan if a student has health issues such as diabetes, asthma, epilepsy or other health issues. The ADA website provides a model plan parents can tailor to their children’s special medical needs, which includes such rights as unrestricted access to a water fountain and bathroom.
But having a plan in place is not enough as my friend recently found out. And what about children who do not have chronic health conditions but are still prohibited from seeking medical care when they get sick at school?
Just as you teach your child how to stand up to the school bully, your child needs to learn how to stand up to an authority figure — even a teacher — who puts their health at risk.
Linda Morgan, author of the book “Beyond Smart,” advises parents to teach their children to “question authority if their safety is threatened. Kids need to know that they have the right to say no, yell, or ask for help. If they feel threatened, they have permission to make a scene.”
As a parent, you should teach your child how to make firm and polite requests and give them permission to walk out of the classroom if a teacher is being unreasonable. Role playing various scenarios can help your child feel comfortable advocating for herself.
My friend’s case was not unusual. On the stark.raving.mad.mommy blog, parents cited similar situations of children being denied permission to go to the school nurse, including a child who had taken the wrong medication and another with a severe allergy.
As for my friend’s child, she survived being held hostage in the school auditorium by a teacher who lacked good judgment, and the principal assured her this problem would not happen again. Still, my friend is teaching her child how to advocate for herself — just in case.
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