TZ Mental Health Resources

School Refusal

Each year, approximately 2–5% of children refuse to come to school due to anxiety or depression. Previously referred to as school phobia, school refusal includes kindergarten students with relatively mild separation anxiety and more severe cases where a student misses weeks or months of school because of debilitating anxiety or depression. Because of the serious long-term social and educational consequences associated with missing school, the problem needs to be addressed promptly and aggressively with a team approach that includes teachers, parents, administrators, support staff, and, in some cases, community agencies and physicians.

Common Warning Signs
It is critical that both parents and educators learn to recognize common warning signs of school refusal and respond quickly.
These include:
• Frequent unexcused absences or tardiness
• Absences on significant days (tests, speeches, physical education class)
• Frequent requests to go to the nurse’s office despite no apparent signs of illness
• Frequent requests to call home or go home during the day
• Major family event/trauma, sleep difficulties, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, or irritability
• Difficulty or resistance to getting out of bed in the morning to go to school despite no apparent signs of illness

Source: Helping Children at Home and School III: Handouts for Families and Educators (NASP, 2010)


Anxiety Disorder Association of America, Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents, school refusal or avoidance:

Getting Your Child to Say “Yes” to School by C.A. Kearney


Katelin Burns, Ph.D.
School Psychologist
(845) 680-1613

Bradley Hercman, Psy.D.
School Psychologist
(845) 680-1610

Ponnu John, LMSW
Prevention Counselor
(845) 680-1671

Jessenia Cursio, LCSW
School Social Worker
(845) 680-1775
(845) 680-1134


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