Staff Editorial: Doctors’ notes: expensive slips of paper

From managing homework to participating in clubs and sports, getting sick is the last thing a student wants to worry about. However there are times where illness is unavoidable. When dealing with sickness, students have to decide to either miss school or risk infecting others– effectively choosing between the student body’s health and the student’s personal grades.

According to the Student Parent Handbook, students are allowed 6 excused absences per semester without any form of documentation required. After 6 absences they are asked to present documentation to validate the absence. This can be court papers, college visit forms, or doctor’s notes. While this policy was created in good faith, it creates a separate problem: doctor’s notes are expensive.

While doctor’s notes are free with any appointment, the appointments themselves are not. A 2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found that the national median expense for an office-based physician was $116 without insurance. With insurance, co-pay prices are around $25. 

These prices are alarmingly high. Even a $25 copay can discourage students from visiting the doctor when they are sick. If a sick student who is out of excused absences cannot afford the price of a doctor’s visit, they are forced to come to school while sick. That student would go about their day with the risk of infecting everyone they come in contact with. Their bodies are not given time to recover, and their focus on school work isn’t as good as it could be. 

The price of a doctor’s notes also leads students/parents to forge medical documents. A quick google search of “free doctor’s notes” leads to hoards of sites offering templates to help those in need create fake notes. In Illinois, forging a document is a Class 3 Felony. If a student or their parents uses these templates because they cannot pay the price of doctor’s notes, they are risking being charged for a felony.

Unfortunately, extending the amount of time students are allowed undocumented excused absences is not the best solution to this problem. The Illinois Truancy Law states that children ages 6-17 may be excused from school for 5% out of 180 consecutive days without “valid excuse” via documentation. This means that missing 9 days of school without documentation can make a child truant, making more than a 6 day policy not plausible. 

Instead, doctor’s notes should be more accessible. Many offices offer online services that create a doctor’s note without an in-person visit. However, these services still cost around $25. Offices cutting down these costs would greatly help in the prevention of sick students showing up to school or forging documents.