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TL;DR; I'm trying to validate my son's teacher saying "As a teacher, I can't even say ADHD." Is a teacher really that restricted?

Long version:

We have been dealing with a teacher who has (from our perspective) been resistant to getting him tested for academic delays. When we finally called her out on it, she mentioned that she has long suspected he may have ADHD, but couldn't say anything. She actually gave us the above quote.

I've got several sub-questions, but the overarching question in the title is the same. What restrictions are on a teacher in regards to a student they suspect of having some disorder such as ADHD? I know a teacher can't diagnose ADHD, they aren't a doctor. Can a teacher mention that they suspect ADHD? Can a teacher recommend that the student be screened for various issues (even avoiding mentioning any particular disorder)? Can a teacher suggest a student be screened by a specialist?

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  • I suspect adhd is a bit of a sore point for many educators. It was in vogue to have a child with it at one point in time. Also you never know when you are going to have to deal with a hypochondria mother.
    – Neil Meyer
    May 15, 2022 at 17:21

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There is no specific statute in Missouri that prohibits a teacher from saying "ADHD". There is a specific federal statute that obligates the school district to make accommodations if a student is diagnosed with ADHD (also a state law). A teacher is not technically qualified to diagnose ADHD. Finally, the teacher is an employee of the school district and is required to follow the policies of the district. Those are the 4 legal cornerstones on which the teachers response must rest. The unquestionably weakest cornerstone is understanding the realities of district policy.

There may be district-policy type reasons that motivate reticence to recommend testing, but such "abundance of caution" is not motivated by a legal mandate imposed on the teacher, it is more likely to be the result of a fear of reprisals (for triggering extra expenditures by the district). Such a fear is not legally warranted, except insofar as if you don't know what the law says (many people don't), fear is a kind of reasonable response. But ignorance of the law is no excuse.

It might be useful to know that it is not required to get a doctors diagnosis of ADHD, so the teacher's evaluation might carry more weight that you would expect, were that a requirement.

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  • Teacher are immenently qualified to diagnose learning disabilities. Who do you expect to realise that a child has a learning disability if not the people who teach them?
    – Neil Meyer
    May 15, 2022 at 17:17
  • You dont need to be a rocket scientist to realise a kid has dyslexia for instance. With a little bit of training the signs are easy to recognise.
    – Neil Meyer
    May 15, 2022 at 17:23
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    @NeilMeyer, Since dyslexia is a medical diagnosis, I believe only a doctor can officially make the diagnosis. For a teacher to do so would technically be "practicing medicine". However, teachers are highly qualified to recognize the signs and encourage a parent to seek an official diagnosis. My question is about what restrictions a teacher faces beyond a prohibition against diagnosing. If I understand user6726's response correctly, they have little inherent restriction beyond what the district specifies.
    – Elros
    May 16, 2022 at 0:37
  • @user6726, In my case, this is a very small private school. The federal obligations I think are tied to federal funding and so may not apply here. The district policy (in this case school policy) is silent on the issue. It sounds like the teacher may be mis-informed or exaggerating the restriction to cover their own lack of action.
    – Elros
    May 16, 2022 at 0:40

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