It seems that there is an increasing trend that more students are having trouble going to school and staying in class as a result of have migraine headaches. One of the unfortunate consequences for children and teenagers who suffer from chronic headaches, or more specifically migraines, is that they miss a lot of school days. When this happens, the family and school need to work together, with help and support from the student’s medical team, to find a balance where the student can attend school as often as possible, plan for when he or she is unable to attend, and ultimately help the student make progress in his or her academic program.
Unfortunately, this fine balancing act can become very contentious. Although some school districts seem to recognize the medical validity of school absences due to migraines, in worst cases other school districts call truancy officers. There does seem to be an increas in district becoming more leary of medical notes for conditions that are not readily observable. Even in those cases where school districts recognize that accommodations need to be made, where and how these students will be educated can become the subject of dispute. A recent court case validates the efforts of a Pennsylvania school district to educate a high school student with refractory migraine headaches who had a 504 Plan by enrolling him in a “cyber school.” The family argued that their son should have been on an IEP where he could have received additional supports and services to help him attend school. Additionally, the family claimed that enrollment in a cyber school denied their son FAPE, or a free appropriate public education, because the cyber school was not the least restrictive environment. The family’s claims, however, were ultimately rejected by the court, which found that given the student’s inability to attend school and the school district's well-documented and numerous attempts to accommodate the student, the “cyber school” was his least restrictive environment and an appropriate placement.