New Jersey schools are required by law to be in session a minimum of 180 days, and students are required to attend classes. But it turns out not all students are treated the same.

“Special-education students have an individualized program that’s developed for them by the professionals in the school district,” said Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

He said this program “takes into account not only their educational needs, but any special physical needs as well.”

Sometimes a special education student “might need occupational or physical therapy, and that would be taken into account as part of the education program that takes place during the school day.”

There may also be other extenuating circumstances.

“If there are any medical requirements specific to the learning program, that too would be considered in the individualized education program,” said Belluscio.

Absences beyond these situations, as well as chronic absences, would be dealt with by the school district’s own attendance policies, which are adopted by the local school board and implemented by the district administration.

He noted such policies can differ from district to district.

Belluscio said it’s no secret that learning needs vary for each child.

“When you do have a learning disability or a physical disability that affects the education program, it’s even more accentuated, and that’s why we do have groups of professionals who do design plans for these children,” he said.

But what happens if parents have a specific concern, or there’s a disagreement over some situation?

Belluscio strongly recommended parents communicate about whatever problem arises.

“In New Jersey, we do have a system that is extremely sensitive to parents,” said Belluscio.

“They should contact the school district, speak with the director of special education programs for the district, or another administrator who oversees that aspect of the school district’s program.”

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