Handling Chronic Illnesses in the New York City Public School System

How the Department of Education’s Lack of Policy Affects Students


Sarane James

The inside of the emergency room is a common sight for students with chronic illnesses.

For many students, chronic illnesses are a fact of life. Schoolwork can become not only a matter of completing assignments, but also an issue of managing pain while doing so. This can add a layer of stress to an already taxing school day. However, what is a chronic illness? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a chronic disease as “conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.”

When it comes to paperwork, the NYC Department of Education does not have a policy regarding chronic illnesses. That means that students are required to fill out the same forms every single year, despite the fact that their illness is never going away. Coordinating upwards of six different forms every year can be a hassle, especially for a kid getting used to new classes, new teachers, and new classmates during the beginning of the school year. The forms provided on the Department of Education website cover many different situations that may arise in school. There are forms dictating if a student is allowed to have medication on them, prescription or otherwise,

This problem could be vastly improved by implementing a version of these forms that does not need to be renewed every year. While it will not stop the initial mad-dash of trying to get all of your paperwork in order, it would prevent it from becoming a recurring ordeal. That way, students can focus more on managing their condition than running back and forth to doctors any more than they need to.

Currently, the Department of Education’s policy on chronic illnesses is nearly non-existent. Students with conditions that will never go away are shoehorned into a system that is designed for impermanent ones, and are made to suffer for it. With a few tweaks, we could create a system that works for everyone, no matter their medical status.